Brazil recognised a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders.
Israel answered by expressing its disappointment, saying Brazil’s decision flew in the face of efforts to negotiate a peace deal.
On Friday, Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (photo, from aljazeera.net) sent a public letter addressed to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, in which he recognised Palestine as an independent state within the 1967 borders.
It came in response to a personal request from Abbas on November 24.
The letter, published on the foreign ministry’s website on Friday said : “Considering that the demand presented by his excellency [Abbas] is just and consistent with the principles upheld by Brazil with regard to the Palestinian issue, Brazil, through this letter, recognises a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders.”
The letter also refers to the “legitimate aspiration of the Palestinian people for a secure, united, democratic and economically viable state coexisting peacefully with Israel.”
In a statement, the Israeli foreign ministry said : “The government of Israel expresses sadness and disappointment over the decision by the Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva a month before he steps down.
“Recognition of a Palestinian state is a breach of the interim agreement which was signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in 1995 which said that the issue of the status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip would be discussed and resolved through negotiations,” it added.
The statement also warned that the move contravened the 2003 Middle East roadmap for peace, saying that according to that roadmap a Palestinian state could only be established through negotiations and not through unilateral actions. And the statement warned that unilateral steps would harm attempts to build trust.
Although Palestinian demands for a state including most of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem – territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 six-day war – are backed by the international community, the US and most Western governments held back from recognising a Palestinian state. They say it should be brought by and through a negotiated peace agreement with Israel.
Brazilian government assured in a parallel statement that relations with Israel “have never been more robust”.
Brazil has offered to help mediate Israeli-Palestinian peace talks when they were briefly revived in September, before grounding to a halt over the resumption of Israeli settlement building in the occupied territories.
As long as Israel continues to build on land the Palestinians want for a future state, president Abbas says he will not return to negotiations, even saying that he would explore other options if peace talks collapse. One of these options would be for him to seek United Nations’ recognition of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders.
So far Israel refused to impose a new ban on settlements.
Though US officials refused to confirm or deny it, a Palestinian official said on Thursday that Washington had officially informed them that attempts to secure a new Israeli settlement freeze had failed.
In 2005 and 2009, Abbas visited Brazil, and last March, Lula was the first Brazilian head of state to make a trip to Palestine and Israel.