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Olive Trees for Peace


From Office to Embassy

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A life devoted to Peace among People and,
dignity and freedom for his Palestine people







From the First Office to the First Palestine State Embassy in Argentine Republic 

A Document For History

 by:  Ambassador Suhail Hani Daher Akel

It was a commitment of blood and roots. Blood from Jerusalem and Palestinian roots. It was a commitment to my principles of dignity for the Palestinian people, to my Master and our Nation’s Father, Yasser Arafat, and to my own exile of over half a century.  

I will be critical and assertive. The objective was highly noble. To establish an office for the Palestine Liberation Organization-PLO in Argentina that would safeguard a legitimate right of the Palestinian people-such was the purpose.

It was a formidable challenge. The first step was to establish our diplomatic relationships with the Argentine Government. The second, a lifetime dream, was to open the first Palestine Embassy in Buenos Aires. 

Boycotts, conspiracies and threats were the order of the day. It was not pleasant, and it was even more painful knowing that the same Palestinian internal front, a group of plotters blinded by personal ambition, went far beyond the objectives of our own people. All of this was the high price to pay. The decision had already been made. There was no stopping the silent scheme. Each blow made me stronger and encouraged me to go ahead.   

I will, on principle, spare certain details-the very heart of the strategy, the lobby, the contacts and the commitments made to different renowned people in order to succeed.

The projection bore fruit. In 1985, on a low-key profile, I opened the First Palestinian Office in Rosario City, Argentina, the second major city in the country. It was an old-looking house located at Avenue Carlos Pellegrini 1618. 

 With mixed feelings of frustration and achievement, our voice began to make its way through Buenos Aires, the Argentine provinces, and abroad by way of the first Palestine Information Office. It also reached our Palestinian highest authorities. This hard yet very neat work very much impressed Commander-in-Chief Yasser Arafat and filled others with concern. It certainly went down in history suhailakeljerusalem.com

The relentless militancy had its results. In 1990, I was ready for the next challenge www.suhailakeljerusalem.com/pidenabrir.htm. On my return from Tunisia, and with Commander-in-Chief Arafat’s support, I opened the first Delegation for the PLO in Argentina. It was a modern three-storey building located at Yerbal 1020, in the neighborhood of Caballito in Buenos Aires. It was a major, yet risky, move. Although we had no official recognition from the Argentine Government, it raised no objections.   

The Palestinian presence was critical to eliminate the defamatory myths surrounding the PLO and the just liberation fight. The highly accommodating premises fulfilled our expectations. I purchased the furniture without any funding from my Government. The PLO temporarily paid the rent.   

Then, the unexpected happened. Following the 1991 Gulf War, pressures brought about the PLO’s economic downfall and a long-lasting reduction in budgetary allocations for external offices. A lack of financial resources, together with general indifference and the indifference of those next to me, forced me to leave the building in 1995. It was a very traumatic and humiliating episode. I absorbed the high financial cost, and was left with the bitter taste of loss and fear that I might not be able to achieve my objective.                

The lack of a place, the severe budgetary crisis, the war climate in the Arabic Gulf (1991), the two terrorist attacks suffered by Argentina first on the Israeli Embassy (1992) and then on the Jewish institution AMIA (1994 )—causing accusatory looks on the PLO—, together with a lack of diplomatic recognition by Argentina and the strong pressure by Israel against recognition of the PLO, all left me walking on the razor’s edge.  

I doubled my efforts. True to a Palestinian proverb (“the blow that does not break your back pushes you forward”), I continued my work on the media and my clarification activities. I overcame difficulties, indifference and pressure, while looking, with no money to spend, for a rented place to reopen the office and seeking the recognition of the PLO’s diplomatic status by the Argentine Government www.suhailakeljerusalem.com/camara.htm. 

Persistence lit the light of hope. In 1995, the Argentine Government informed me of its desire to officially recognize the PLO. That same year, I put an end to my exile and returned to my country. There, I broke the news to President Arafat (who had returned in 1994) and received Argentinean Chancellor José Mario Guido Di Tella in Gaza www.suhailakeljerusalem.com/witharafatditella.htm. Back in Buenos Aires, and already an accredited Ambassador by a decree of our President Yasser Arafat, I submitted my credentials and developed a diplomatic action plan.    

My wish was fulfilled. In 1996, I signed the first agreement of our bilateral relations and the acceptance of the official opening of our Palestinian Mission www.suhailakeljerusalem.com/relations.htm. I knew that those relations would at first be low-key and only of a representative nature. They would also be fraught with difficulty and Israeli pressure. With time and perseverance, after lobbying contacts on a highly personal basis and holding several meetings with the Foreign Ministry, I received from Argentina, between the years 2000 and 2004, the document recognizing the office of Ambassador and its precedence, immunities and the diplomatic upgrade repositioning our Mission, which would no longer be an international organization, into the diplomatic corps along with the rest of the embassies. We were almost granted State recognition. The process of reestablishing diplomatic relations was extremely complex. 

My Palestinian heart was filled with happiness. In 1996, I rented and opened a new representation office, the PLO and the Palestinian National Authority-PNA having already been granted recognition by Argentina. The office was in a sober apartment located at Mendoza 1821, 8th floor, in the neighborhood of Belgrano, in the Federal Capital suhailakeljerusalem.com/statuspalesrtinian.htm. I thank my fellow Brother Mr. Horacio Munir Haddad, of Argentine and Lebanese descent, for being so generous in renting the new office. However, the financial crisis was not over yet.      

I perceived that, in spite of the significant progress made, the fragile economic situation jeopardized the continuity of our Palestinian presence with rented offices. We needed our own piece of property for the Palestinian people which would assure permanence and stability.    

The Embassy:

 This is a separate chapter altogether. How can I explain it or write about it? There was a great deal of coming and going, lobbying and counter lobbying, difficulties, maneuvers, disappointments and oppression. Once the existing pressure was removed, diplomacy prevailed.  

The strategy set the dream in motion. In late 1996, the Argentine Government granted me the assignment of a piece of property for our Embassy along with the possibility of choosing from several buildings. I selected one that posed the most challenges, but which was best suited for my Palestinian people. It was an imposing hundred plus year old construction right smack in the middle neighborhood of Norte a four-storey building located at Riobamba 981, Buenos Aires www.suhailakeljerusalem.com/unedificio.htm. It was in deplorable condition and its interior was in ruin. Restoring it was another challenge. I knew that I could not obtain financial resources from my Government or a local subsidy, and the Argentine Government was my only hope. Mr. President Arafat thanked Argentina’s gesture in writing. 

The expectation was obtained. The efforts made were decent, and backstage stories were thorny and passionate. Renovation works on the building began in 1997 as part of a public bidding process conducted by the Argentine Government. The initial budget did not fulfill expectations. The building covered 1,800 square meters, and I wanted to recover all of its beauty and splendor. The works lasted almost three years. There was a great deal of difficulty; however, I persevered to the last detail.


* I wanted to keep its French style as a historic monument for the city. The beauty of its interior was restored with imported wallpaper, golden arrangements, marble and carpets. There was a large Residence and Office for the Ambassador. There were also several offices; reception rooms, including a Meeting Room: “Jerusalem”, a Conference Room: “Martyrs”, a Flag Room: “Yasser Arafat”, and a Library: “Dalal Al Mogharabi”; servants’ quarters; two apartments for guests and an apartment for the Consulate; a covered barbecue area; a paddle court; eleven bathrooms; four kitchens; automatic gates; two elevators; and a set of fine arrangements that enhanced the beauty of the building, with completely restored gardens and terraces. All of those who saw the property before and after the changes were and are still amazed at such large-scale restoration efforts. It was something to be proud of  www.suhailakeljerusalem.com/building.htm.    


During reconstruction, I realized that the gardens and terraces lacked plants and that the furniture I had brought from the other offices was not enough. Without any money from my Government, I forced myself to plan the new challenge. After I made several contacts, the city Mayor donated beautiful palm trees and nice-looking interior and exterior plants. Another interesting story was that of the furniture. Having received no money from my Government, and after much searching and dealing with attitudes of indifference, I received a donation of some office furniture from the Argentine Government (in accordance with Article 53 on unused furniture). Although it was in very poor condition, with efforts I restored. 

In 1999, Palestine already had due diplomatic Representation in Argentina, with a important palace worth over $ 9 million dollars. Fortunately, my Palestinian Government had to make no investment. The Embassy is, undoubtedly, the best Palestinian Embassy in the world and can compete with the best foreign embassies in Buenos Aires. A big thanks to my Family for their sacrifice and support. I am very thankful to Argentina and the Argentinean people, thank Mr. Carlos Saul Menem, former President of Nation and also to Mr. Fernando de la Rúa, the then mayor of the City of Buenos Aires.  To  those  who  have  been  with  me through good times and bad times, I give my thanks... To those who were disloyal, who conspired and betrayed, I offer my understanding.

Bittersweet were the sensations of happiness and tears. My eyes were able to clearly see an old dream come true. On November 15, 1999, our Independence Day, I held our Palestinian National Flag up in my own hands in the front yard of the building and Inaugurated the first Palestinian Embassy with a reception that had no precedent in the Argentine diplomatic history. More than 1,800 people attended, including diplomats; sectors of the national, provincial and local government; intellectuals; the clergy; etc., all crowding the street and the building. At 8:35 PM, the then Mr. President of Argentina, Carlos Saul Menem, cut the Palestinian and Argentine ribbons, thereby renewing Palestinian hopes and aspirations suhailakeljerusalem.com./pictures.htm. The Palestinian continuity and presence had been assured.     


During the inauguration, I planted an “Olive Tree as a symbol of Peace” in the Embassy’s gardens. I called for dignity, peace and coexistence. I urged and pushed for the opening of the Argentine Representation in Palestine. In 2005, Mr. President  Nestor Kirchner signed a decree to open an Argentine Representation Office in Palestine. Mr. President Abu Mazen thanked the gesture. 

The efforts and sacrifices were not in vain. My heroic and martyred Palestinian people deserved it and was proud to see our national flag wave in the very heart of Buenos Aires. President Yasser Arafat was moved when I showed him the picture of his Embassy. We were both filled with emotion.   

During my mandate, the Embassy was a basis for Palestine’s diplomatic relations with Argentina and the embassies of fellow countries. To read about the beginning of bilateral relations between Palestine and the Republic of Paraguay, see suhailakeljerusalem.com/paraguayrecognition.htm; to read about the frequent contacts with the Republic of Uruguay to establish our diplomatic relations, see suhailakeljerusalem.com/vazquezanalyses.htm. Our Embassy was a home for every Palestinian and descendant in exile, for Arabs and men who love dignity. It served as a place for book presentations, the exhibition of works of art and pictures, conferences on Palestine and in general, for receptions and meetings attended by renowned figures. It was the space for dialogue and peace; for intellectual, religious, social and political gatherings. Apart from the extensive diplomatic and cultural programs, annual receptions were held on occasion of the Palestine National Day, with the presence of over 1,500 celebrated figures. Our Embassy is to be remembered as the one with the most convening power in the diplomatic and institutional arena. -All of the above is sufficiently supported by official Documentation-.         

At the end of my mission in May of 2006, I said goodbye with a reception in the Embassy, which was attended by more than 1,700 personalities. I left the office with a clear conscience of having, in the last two decades through diplomatic and intellectual efforts, restored bilateral relations and opened the first Palestinian Office previous to the Embassy of Palestine State with a building of its own, and of being the first PLO Representative and the first Palestinian Ambassador in Argentina, and Ambassador of the Martyr President Yasser Arafat.  A tear rolled down my cheek when I kissed for the last time the oil painting of the Virgin Mariam, our Lady of Palestine, enthroned in the Embassy in 2003. Strengthened, I sensed Palestine’s triumph in the words of our Nation’s Father and Martyr Yasser Arafat: “Mountains cannot and will never be moved by the wind” (9/11/2003).     

To Jerusalem

Ambassador Suhail Hani Daher Akel / 2009  


© Copyright, Suhail Hani Daher Akel. Publication or distribution of this material is allowed provided its content is not altered and the source and its author are cited.


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