Former Israeli ambassador to Argentina Itzhak Aviran’s remarks that Israel killed most of the perpetrators behind two attacks against Israel and Jewish targets in Argentina 20 years ago are “pure fantasy,” the Foreign Ministry stated Saturday, seeking to defuse a mushrooming diplomatic incident with Buenos Aires.
“The statements by former ambassador Aviran, who has been in retirement for some 15 years, are completely disconnected from reality,” the statement read. “These remarks, made on no authority nor knowledge, are pure fantasy and do not reflect in any way events or facts such as he pretends to depict.”
The statement went on to say that Israel continued to cooperate in full transparency with Argentina in investigating the bombings that took place in Buenos Aires against the Israeli Embassy in 1992 and the AMIA Jewish Community Center in 1994. Twenty- nine people were killed in the embassy bombing and 85 in the AMIA blast. A total of 500 people were wounded in both blasts.
Aviran alleged on Thursday, in an interview with the local Jewish News Agency, that Israel was responsible for killing the terrorists who carried out the attacks.
“The vast majority of those responsible [for the bombings] are no longer of this world, and we did that ourselves,” he said.
Aviran, who served as ambassador from 1993 to 2000, was extremely critical of Argentina’s efforts “to get to the bottom of this tragedy.”
“Neither [former president Carlos] Menem, nor [former president Fernando] de la Rúa, nor any of those who came afterward did anything to clear up what happened,” he said. “We still need an answer [from Argentina] on what happened. We know who the perpetrators of the embassy bombing were and they did it a second time.”
In the interview, Aviran took aim at the Memorandum of Understanding signed last year between Iran and Argentina that included a “truth commission” to investigate the bombings.
“I heard that [Héctor] Timerman, the famous Argentine foreign minister, said that he wanted to create a commission to find the guilty parties with the Iranians, who were the ones responsible,” Aviran said. “Timerman has a very problematic history with us.
First, it was his father [the late journalist Jacobo Timerman], whom we saved, who insulted us. Then, it was his son who said these things which are anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli.”
The Buenos Aires Herald on Saturday quoted Timerman as characterizing Aviran’s accusations as “serious,” and as saying that “from Aviran’s statements we can deduce the reasons why Israel has opposed the Memorandum of Understanding.”
“His words are very serious because they would imply that Israel hid information from Argentine courts, blocking new evidence from appearing,” Timerman was quoted as saying.
One Israeli official said that Aviran gave Timerman the means he long sought to justify the agreement with Iran, part of an effort to improve ties with Tehran, and maintain that Israel was only opposed because of a “hidden agenda.”
“This gives legitimization to Iran,” the official said, and “delegitimizes Israel,” because it presents it as a country that kills without due process.
The Buenos Aires Herald reported that Argentinean prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who accused Iran of ordering the AMIA bombing and Hezbollah of carrying it out, said he asked the Argentine Foreign Ministry to formally request that an Israeli judge force Aviran to provide a sworn statement regarding his claims. The Iranian-linked Islamic Jihad took responsibility for the embassy attack.
“I’m surprised at these statements,” the paper quoted Nisman as saying. “I would like to know how he knows this, who these people might be and what proof he has.”
“What he’s saying is that they [the Israelis] identified by first and last name the authors of the attack,” the paper quoted Nisman as saying. “I would like to hear Aviran say who these people are whom they theoretically ‘sent to the other world.’” Timerman has summoned Israel’s number-two diplomat for clarifications. Israel’s ambassador to Argentina, Dorit Shavit, is in Israel taking part in the Foreign Ministry’s annual conference for Israel’s ambassadors and consuls-general.
Eight Iranians, including former defense minister Ahmad Vahidi and ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, were charged in an Argentinian court over the AMIA bombings, and authorities have issued Interpol warrants demanding the extradition of five Iranians and a Lebanese.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has also been linked to the AMIA bombing. He was allegedly on the special Iranian government committee, led by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, that plotted the attack, according to an indictment by the Argentine government prosecutor investigating the case.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.