|September 28, 2012 – New York – Colombian President
Juan Manuel Santos was honored at an American Jewish Committee (AJC) luncheon in
New York, and received the global advocacy organization’s prestigious Diplomatic
“This AJC award is an injection of enthusiasm
and inspiration to go forward, to keep going,” said President Santos. The award
was presented for pursuing peace, and for strengthening ties among Colombia,
the U.S. and Israel.
“My government, like the AJC, is fully
committed to combating all forms of bigotry and discrimination and to promoting
human rights, pluralism and democratic values. We will continue to fight the
battle in defense of these values together,” Santos said.
AJC Executive Director David Harris,
presenting the award, praised the Colombian president for his “acute vision to
pursue policy goals to create a brighter future for his country, conviction to
uphold core values of democracy and pluralism, and courage to sit down with
enemies in Colombia and to stand up to the automatic majority at the UN in defense
More than 100 people, including diplomatic
representatives of other Latin American countries, leaders of the Jewish
community in Bogota and Israel’s ambassador to Colombia, who flew specially to
New York for the event, attended the luncheon at AJC headquarters. Santos was
in New York to address the UN General Assembly.
Thanking AJC for the award, Santos spoke
extensively about his own family’s long-term relationship with the Colombian
Jewish community, his admiration for Israel and for the close ties fostered
between Colombia and Israel, his current initiative to negotiate an end to
decades of strife with the FARC rebels in his own country, and his appreciation
for AJC’s help in achieving the landmark U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.
“To defend Israel’s right to have a state is
no act of courage. It simply is common sense,” said Santos. “We share principles
of freedom, liberty and justice. That makes it easy for Colombia to stand up
against the current” of nations opposing Israel.
Santos reaffirmed Colombia’s support for a
negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Any
agreement must include the recognition of the State of Israel as the nation-state
of the Jewish people,” said Santos in his prepared text. “This has been and
continues to be the position of my government.”
Harris pointed out that “President Santos has
laudably rejected the Palestinian gambit to recognize a state without a
negotiated peace agreement with Israel, whether on the UN Security Council,
where Colombia currently sits, or in other UN bodies.”
Empathizing with Israel’s security
challenges, Santos said that Colombia, too, always is searching for peace.
Colombia has endured 50 years of internal strife.
“Very few families in Colombia have not
suffered from this conflict,” said Santos. “In search for peace I took a risky decision,”
referring to the recent announcement to negotiate with the FARC. “After 50
years of war conditions are present to give peace a chance, to try to
negotiate. Making war is much easier than making peace."
The luncheon was organized by AJC’s Latino
and Latin American Institute. Founded in 2005, the institute maintains extensive
ties across the region. The director is Dina Siegel Vann.