Viewing cable 04PANAMA2777
Title: PANAMA PROBABLY WILL NOT MOVE TO OPPOSE

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
04PANAMA27772004-11-16 21:44:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Panama
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PANAMA 002777 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
STATE FOR P/YU, IO/UNP/MCPHEE, IO/PPC/BATLLE, AND WHA/CEN, 
SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD 
 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/15/2009 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PM UNGA POL CHIEF
SUBJECT: PANAMA PROBABLY WILL NOT MOVE TO OPPOSE 
ANTI-ISRAEL BIAS AT UNGA 
 
 
REF: A. STATE 240249 
     ¶B. PANAMA 2452 
 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR LINDA E. WATT FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D) 
 
 
Summary: Change Is Not At Hand 
------------------------------ 

¶1.  (C) This Embassy and other observers hoped that Panama's 
UNGA voting patterns soon might become more congenial to U.S. 
interests, given the recent election of Martin Torrijos, a 
young, modernizing president; his avowed intent to make 
Panama's UN General Assembly voting "more predictable"; and 
the GOP's friendly relations with Israel and the local Jewish 
community.  In fact, the Ambassador and other Emboffs have 
pressed GOP officials to improve Panama's UN voting record, 
especially with regard to the Israel-Palestine issue. 
Despite Embassy efforts, as well as lobbying by the local 
Jewish community, we believe that in the short run Panama 
likely will continue its past voting pattern on 
Israel-Palestine questions.  On the positive side, Panamanian 
officials do not seem comfortable voting for empty 
pro-Palestinian resolutions.  Senior GOP officials have 
defended their stance by citing putative fears of terrorist 
attacks against the Canal.  Embassy will continue to press 
GOP officials to pursue a more constructive policy vis-a-vis 
Israel and Palestine at the United Nations.  End Summary. 
 
 
Demarche Delivered 
------------------ 

¶2.  (C) Delivering Ref A demarche to MFA Foreign Relations 
Director Dario Chiru at a November 12 meeting, POL Counselor 
pushed Chiru to consider instructing Panama's UN delegation 
to vote "no" or at least to abstain on the three Ref A 
resolutions, arguing that institutionalized bias in the UN 
General Assembly embodied in the resolutions poisoned the 
atmosphere against Israel at the UNGA and made the 
international body all but irrelevant to solving 
Israel-Palestine issues.  He also pointed out that the search 
for new Palestinian leadership and directions following the 
death of Yasir Arafat presented important opportunities to 
peacemakers on both sides.  Now was a good time to drop empty 
rhetoric and oppose tendentiousness at the international body. 
 
 
"A Matter of Conscience" 
------------------------ 

¶3.  (C) After listening attentively, Chiru promised to 
discuss the demarche with Minister of Foreign Affair Samuel 
Lewis.  Sounding very much like his predecessor at MFA under 
the previous government of Mireya Moscoso, Chiru said 
Panama's annual votes to support pro-Palestinian resolutions 
are a matter of conscience for Panama, due to a perceived 
need to maintain "equilibrium" on the Palestinian question. 
This is not simply a matter of voting to please an ally (the 
U.S.) or a friend (Israel), Chiru explained, but to fulfill a 
"sense of justice when we look at the map."  (Read: The lack 
of a Palestinian state.)  If Israel does not feel pressure 
from the General Assembly, it may simply procrastinate on 
Palestinian rights, Chiru said. 
 
 
Present At The Creation 
----------------------- 

¶4.  (C) Chiru pointed out that Panama was one of the founder 
members of the United Nations, was an active participant in 
the 1945 conference that wrote the UN Charter, and voted to 
create the state of Israel in 1947.  Following Israeli 
independence, Chiru said, Panama has felt a "debt" to the 
Palestinians and worried that Palestinian initiatives were 
not being pushed with the same force. 
 
 
A "Debt" Owed To Palestine 
-------------------------- 

¶5.  (C) Chiru was quick to acknowledge UNGA's 
institutionalized anti-Israel bias; that the yearly 
Palestinian resolutions would have no practical effect on the 
issues at hand; and that uncritical international support for 
Palestine when many Palestinian terrorist groups were 
resorting to terrorist violence destabilized the UN's need 
for moderation.  On the other hand, while weighing friendly 
feelings toward Israel against condemnatory votes, Panama 
acts in a way it believes will best motivate peaceful and 
comprehensive negotiations on the Palestinian question, Chiru 
said.  The UNGA's pro-Palestinian position reflects 
Palestinian weakness and the "debt" that many countries, 
including Panama, feel they owe Palestine, he said. 
 
 
Comment: Practical Concerns Undercut Principled Approach 
--------------------------------------------- ----------- 

¶6.  (C) Aside from its stated sympathy for the Palestinian 
"underdog," the GOP also plausibly has its eye on Canal 
security.  In a recent discussion with POL Counselor, B'nai 
B'rith President Joseph Harari related a meeting he had held 
with President Torrijos and Foreign Minister Lewis prior to 
the September 1 inauguration.  Torrijos turned down Harari's 
suggestion that Panama adopt a more pro-Israel stance at the 
UN, saying that doing so could make the Panama Canal a 
higher-profile target for terrorist attacks, a risk Torrijos 
said he was unwilling to contemplate.  (Ref B.) 
 
 
¶7.  (C) Former (and future) presidential hopeful Ricardo 
Alberto Arias, Panama's current UN Ambassador, is another 
possible complication.  A Panamanian foreign minister under 
President Ernesto Perez Balladares, Arias was partly 
responsible for U.S.-Panama talks bogging down during the 
late 1990s on the proposed Multilateral Counter-narcotics 
Center in Panama.  While we do not know the extent of his 
freedom of action on the Israel-Palestine votes, Arias will 
doubtless pay strict attention to their possible political 
implications for himself personally. 
 
 
WATT