2018-08-01 / Editorial

Netanyahu’s second trip to Latin America is a sign of warming ties

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to Columbia this week —as a guest at the inauguration of President Elect Iván Duque — is a welcoming sign of stronger relationships quickly developing between the Jewish state and several Latin American nations.

Duque, of the right-wing Democratic Center party, had campaigned on improving already strong ties with Israel. In the same week in May that the United States opened its embassy in Jerusalem — with Guatemala following suit two days later – Duque said on the campaign trail that he would consider the move as well.

Paraguay, another South American country, became the third nation behind Guatemala to relocate its embassy.

Netanyahu’s visit Aug. 6-9 will be his second trip to South America in less than a year. In September 2017, a 10-day diplomatic trip with stops in Argentina, Paraguay, Colombia and Mexico marked the first-ever visit to Latin America by a sitting Israeli prime minister. Following his meeting in Columbia with outgoing president Juan Manuel Santos and members of the local Jewish community, the two nations signed onto two bilateral agreements on science and tourism.

This upcoming trip delivers on Netanyahu’s promise to continue cultivating relationships. “I don’t think that the [visits] of the prime minister of Israel… should be 70 years apart, so I guarantee you the next visit will be a lot closer at hand,” he said during a press conference with Santos at the time. “We think that Latin America, as a whole, has tremendous potential.”

Indeed it does. During this upcoming meeting, Netanyahu is also expected to meet with the presidents of Argentina, Honduras and Guatemala.

To be clear, not all of South America is behind Israel: Venezuela is an ally of Iran, and Bolivian President Evo Morales criticized Guatemala for voting against a United Nations resolution in December condemning recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

In Columbia’s case, economic ties were well established. Colombia, which fought an insurgency by FARC rebels for decades until a peace treaty signed in 2016, regularly purchases Israeli arms, according to the Times of Israel.

The other nations may be warming up to Israel for pragmatic reasons. With the influence of the Shiite militant group based in Lebanon already established in several Latin American countries, several countries are interested in Israel’s counter-terrorism expertise, according to the Times of Israel. 

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