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Israel says 'surprised' by Colombia's recognition of Palestine

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas (L), talks with Colombia's former president Juan Manuel Santos as they leave a press conference at Narino Presidential Palace in Colombia’s capital Bogota, October 11, 2011. (Photo by AFP)

Israel says it is surprised by Colombia's decision to recognize the Palestinian state, demanding explanation from Bogota.

A day after President Ivan Duque was inaugurated in Bogota, it was revealed that the outgoing government of Juan Manuel Santos had recognized a Palestinian state last week.

“I would like to inform you that in the name of the government of Colombia, President Juan Manuel Santos has decided to recognize Palestine as a free, independent and sovereign state,” Colombia’s Foreign Ministry said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unexpectedly canceled a planned trip to Colombia to attend the inauguration of Duque, who took office on Tuesday.

"We are surprised by the report in the media and are waiting for explanations from the new administration, which is checking into the subject," Israel's foreign ministry said Thursday.

Duque has said he wanted to improve his country’s good relations with Israel, even openly mulling the idea of moving his country’s embassy to Jerusalem al-Quds.

His government said it would study the implications of Santos’s last-minute decision on the Palestinians, but acknowledged that it was legal.

The State of Palestine has been recognized by more than 135 United Nations member states. 

Colombia had long refrained from recognizing Palestine out of deference to Washington but it has sought to chart a more independent foreign policy in recent years.

The development comes amid international outcry over the Knesset's ratification of the “national law” which has been called racist, riding roughshod on the rights of Arabs living in Israel. 

‘Israeli ethnic cleansing’

An Arab member of the Israeli parliament who resigned last month after the approval hit out at the legislation in an interview with the Middle East Eye news portal, saying it is a precursor to "ethnic cleansing."

"There is ethnic cleansing in this law that allows building Jewish-only towns without any Arabs. This is more than what the Arabs could absorb. All of that comes over human rights," said Zouheir Bahloul.

The law institutionalizes the “inferior status” long experienced by Arabs, he added. "My resignation is an outcry that we will not accept laws that chase the Arab presence" from Israel, he added.

The Knesset adopted the bill on July 19 declaring the occupying entity “the nation-state of the Jewish people.”

It prioritizes “Jewish” values over democratic ones in the occupied territories and declares Jerusalem al-Quds the “capital” of Israel. It also allows existence of Jewish-only communities, and sets Hebrew as the official language, relegating Arabic from an official language to one with “special status.”

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