Declaration reflects complex approach tries to balance political, economic and ideological interests, writes Karina Calandrin
On September 19, as usual, Brazil opened the annual ordinary meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, following the same protocol since the organization was founded. President Lula, in his 3rd term and 8th speech at the General Assembly plenary, spoke on several current issues, such as the war in Ukraine, climate change and the Israel-Palestine conflict.
“It is disturbing to see that old unresolved disputes persist and new threats emerge or gain force. This is clearly demonstrated by the difficulty of guaranteeing the creation of a State for the Palestinian people”, said Lula.
Those who had never seen Lula speak at the UN may have been surprised by the mention of Palestine in the middle of his speech, but it is nothing new. The conflict had already been mentioned in the president’s speeches at the UN in his first 2 terms.
During the first years that Lula was president of Brazil (from 2003 to 2010), the country maintained a consistent position in relation to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Brazil supported the 2-State solution as a means of achieving lasting peace in the region, recognizing the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people and defending the end of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.
At the general assembly in 2006, still in his first term, Lula declared:
“In Brazil, millions of Arabs and Israelis live together in a harmonious and integrated way. Brazil’s interest in the Middle East thus reflects an objective and profound social reality in our country. The Middle East issue has always been treated exclusively – beyond those directly involved – by the great powers. To date, they have not reached a solution.
“It is therefore worth asking: wouldn’t it be time to convene a broad conference, under the aegis of the United Nations, with the participation of countries in the region and others that could contribute, due to their capacity and experience in coexisting peacefully with differences?
“Brazil believes in dialogue. That is why we held the South American-Arab Countries Summit in 2005. We also maintain good relations with Israel, whose birth as a State occurred when a Brazilian, Osvaldo Aranha, presided over the General Assembly.”
In 2009, already in his 2nd term, the president said:
“Of a UN with the political and moral authority to resolve conflicts in the Middle East, guaranteeing the coexistence of a Palestinian State with the State of Israel.”
On the occasion, Lula expressed concern about the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and emphasized the importance of a peace process negotiated and conducted in a fair and balanced manner, based on international law. However, Brazil also maintained diplomatic relations with Israel and did not intervene in commercial ties, seeking a balanced approach in the search for a peaceful solution.
To understand Lula’s attitude towards the Israel-Palestine conflict, it is important to consider the historical context. During the government of Jair Bolsonaro, his most recent predecessor, Brazil defended controversial measures such as supporting the move of the Brazilian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, aligning itself with the policy of Donald Trump, then president of the United States. The change ended up not materializing, but just the vocalization of the idea already revealed the previous government’s inclination.
However, Lula’s coming to power represented a significant change in this approach.
Lula has been a consistent supporter of the 2-State solution as the basis for resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict. This position is in line with the majority of nations and international organizations, which defend the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. This vision seeks lasting peace and a geographic division that allows for the self-determination of the Palestinian people.
Lula also vehemently criticizes Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories, considering them an obstacle to peace. These settlements are viewed by the international community as illegal and a violation of international law. Lula highlights the need for Israel to halt settlement expansion as part of any meaningful peace process.
The current Brazilian president emphasizes the importance of multilateralism and international diplomacy to resolve the conflict. He believes that the UN plays a crucial role in this context and that negotiations must be conducted through multilateral channels to ensure a fair and impartial approach.
It is important to note that, despite its critical rhetoric, Brazil maintains economic and commercial relations with Israel. This demonstrates the complexity of political and economic considerations that influence the country’s foreign policy. Lula recognizes the importance of these relationships, but seeks to balance them with his political principles and support for the Palestinian cause.
Lula’s attitude towards the Israel-Palestine conflict is part of his search for autonomy and sovereignty in Brazilian foreign policy. It seeks to affirm Brazil as an independent global actor, capable of making decisions aligned with its national interests and its vision of global justice, rather than being influenced by foreign powers.
Lula is not exempt from criticism regarding his approach to the conflict. Some argue that his statements do not translate into effective political action. Furthermore, some of his inaccurate statements, such as the one made in Spain about the UN being responsible for the creation of Israel, could harm diplomatic relations and Brazil’s credibility as a mediator.
In an official Mercosur meeting with the Spanish government, Lula said the following:
“The UN was so strong that, in 1948, it managed to create the State of Israel. In 2023, it will not be possible to create the Palestinian State”. This speech was widely criticized, as the UN, as an international organization, does not have the prerogative to create countries.
What took place was a meeting in 1947 that culminated in the approval, by the majority of member countries at the time, of Resolution 181, which suggested the creation of 2 nation-states, one Arab and the other Jewish, in the territory known as the British Mandate of Palestine. Israeli sovereignty came later. Not because of the will of the UN as an organization, but because of other factors.
Lula’s stance towards the Israel-Palestine conflict reflects a complex approach that seeks to balance political, economic and ideological interests. His advocacy of the 2-State solution, criticism of settlements and emphasis on multilateralism demonstrate his commitment to lasting peace in the region. However, the practical implementation of its foreign policy in relation to this conflict will continue to be the subject of debate and evaluation.