I’m at the American Jewish Committee’s "Global Forum Gala," and the events signature event, the Light Unto the Nations Award, has just been given to Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli.
Under Martinelli, Panama was one of a handful of members on the U.N. Human Rights Council to vote against the Goldstone report.
More recently, Martinelli has turned away pressure to recognize the state of Palestine, a trend sweeping Latin America.
Martinelli said he didn’t deserve the award — he was just keeping his word, he said.
"The best thing Panama did was to support the state of Israel," he said, referring both to his actions and Panama’s 1947 vote for the creation of Israel.
He couldn’t resist a tourism pitch to the crowd, starting with "Now comes the price for support of Israel," to laughter.
"Come to Panama," he kept repeating, noting its restaurants, its low taxes — and its status as possibly the only country with border-to-border free Wi-Fi.