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Osvaldo Aranha

A remembrance of the Brazilian diplomat who became a hero for Israel. He played a crucial role in the creation of the State of Israel 71 years ago. He was president of the United Nations General Assembly in

1947 during the UNGA 181 vote on the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine. His capacity to mobilize the vote and convince the delegations to support the resolution was a game changer.

Aranha supported and heavily lobbied for the creation of the State of Israel but the approval of that resolution was a daunting task. At the time there only 59 nations at the UN. The partition plan needed the two-thirds majority and it was very difficult to obtain. The Arabs had a strong minority and their mobilization was on full force to block it.

Aranha had to work hard backstage to convince Latin American and other countries to vote for Israel. The diplomatic game and pressure were felt across the globe. His efforts were crucial. The vote was set for November 27th but he knew the resolution wouldn’t pass. Skillful, he was able to mobilize Israel’s friendly delegations to make long speeches to postpone the day of the vote.

On November 29th, he counted the votes and the UN session was been broadcasted around the world via radio. Jews around the world were listening…..in Jafa, Paris, Washington, São Paulo or Tel Aviv…millions holding their breath. Osvaldo Aranha continued counting the vote and at the end, an explosion of joy erupted on the streets of Jerusalem and beyond.

By presiding over the first special session of the UN General Assembly, Oswaldo Aranha, then head of the Brazilian delegation, began a tradition that has remained until today whereby the first speaker at this major international forum is always a Brazilian.

Abba Eban, the prominent Israeli diplomat and politician once said: “a very special chapter should be dedicated to Aranha in a book to tell the history of Israel.” Streets in Israeli cities such as Beer-Sheva and Ramat-Gan, and a square in Jerusalem are named after Aranha. In 2007, a street in Tel Aviv was named in his honor at a ceremony attended by his relatives and Brazil’s ambassador to Israel.

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