Jerusalem expressed “surprise and astonishment” Monday at an Argentinean-Iranian
decision to set up a “truth committee’ to investigate the 1994 bombing of a
Buenos Aires Jewish community center that killed 85 people.
Argentinean courts already found Iran culpable, and Interpol even issued
warrants against five Iranians and a Lebanese for the attack. Iranian Defense
Minister Ahmad Vahidi is among the Iranian officials sought by
“The announcement came as a complete surprise and shock,”
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said of the establishment of the new
“We warned the Argentineans that the Iranians were trying to
manipulate them and set a trap for them that they will use for their propaganda
Palmor said that Israel had no information on the mandate of
the “truth committee” beyond what was written in the media, and was waiting to
hear explanations from the Argentineans about what is being
The attack on the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA)
building on July 18, 1994, was Argentina’s deadliest- ever bombing and also left
hundreds wounded. Two years before the attack, Islamic Jihad took responsibility
for an attack on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires that killed 29 people and
also wounded hundreds.
The Foreign Ministry released a statement Monday
evening saying that the Argentinean ambassador to Israel would be summoned to
the ministry to explain the move, and that Israel’s envoy in Buenos Aires would
request a meeting with Argentinean Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman to clarify
The Foreign Ministry statement said Jerusalem was
“clearly and understandably” concerned about the matter, and that the proven
connection between the two attacks gave Israel “the natural right to follow the
investigations and expect the perpetrators and their sponsors be brought to
The establishment of the committee makes it “doubtful justice
will be rendered,” the statement read.
The “truth commission” agreement
was signed in Addis Ababa by Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi and
Timerman, who were attending an Organization of African Union summit. The two
had met for the first time in September in New York during the UN General
Assembly session, and again in Switzerland earlier this month to discuss the
An Argentinean newspaper reported two years ago that Buenos
Aires was willing to stop investigating the bombings of Jewish targets there in
the 1990s in return for improved economic ties with Iran. One diplomatic
official said the establishment of the “truth committee” – which he said sounded
like something straight out of North Korea – seemed to indicate there was
something to that story, denied at the time by the Argentineans.
official said that when Israel recently asked the Argentineans about their
contacts with Tehran concerning the bombing investigations, it was told that
this was an internal Argentinean matter that did not affect Israel.
official said that Argentinean President Cristina Fernandez has a “fascination”
with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and that this move toward Iran seemed to
be an indication that she was beginning to follow his lead.
Venezuela has a close relationship with Iran. It was not clear, the official
said, what economic benefits Iran promised Argentina in return for whitewashing
The country’s two largest Jewish organizations – the AMIA
and the Delegation of Israelite Argentine Associations – slammed the
establishment of the committee and said it impinged on Argentinean
“To ignore everything that the Argentine justice has done
and to replace it with a commission that, in the best of cases, will issue,
without any defined deadline, a ‘recommendation’ to the parties constitutes,
without doubt, a reversal in the common objective of obtaining justice,” the
organizations said in a joint statement.
The American Jewish Committee
issued an even harsher statement.
“The idea of establishing a ‘truth’
commission on the AMIA tragedy that involves the Iranian regime would be like
asking Nazi Germany to help establish the facts of Kristallnacht,” said AJC
executive director David Harris.
“It is offensive not only to the
families of the 85 murdered and hundreds wounded, but to the entire Argentine
nation which has sought justice for more than 18 years.”
Harris said that
the Argentinean government’s “acquiescence in this charade called a truth
commission is inexplicable” and will undermine efforts by the country’s special
prosecutor to bring those responsible to justice.
The commission will be
made up of foreign legal experts “to analyze all the documentation presented to
date by the judicial authorities of Argentina and Iran,” Fernandez said in a
series of Twitter messages. She hailed the agreement as historic.
five commissioners will be jointly nominated and will not be residents of
Argentina or Iran, according to a document posted on Fernandez’s Facebook
After analyzing the evidence, “the commission will give its vision
and issue a report with recommendations about how the case should proceed within
the legal and regulatory framework of both parties,” according to the
It also outlines plans for Argentinean legal officials to meet
in Tehran to question “those people for whom Interpol has issued a red
Fernandez said the accord, which must be ratified by Congress,
showed Argentina “would never let the tragedy [of the attack] become a chess
piece in the game of wider geopolitical interests.”
“Dialogue [is] the
only way to resolve conflicts between countries, however severe they are,” she
said via Twitter.
Reuters contributed to this report.