Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Sunday in a taped message from his office that Israel is recognizing Juan Guaido as interim president of Venezuela.
While Israel has joined the US, Canada, most of Latin America and some countries in Europe in recognizing Guaido, the decision comes despite concerns about how it will impact the country’s Jewish community, which stands today at 6,000, down from 20,000 in 1985.
On Saturday US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the UN Security Council
, “Now is the time for every other nation to pick a side. No more delays, no more games. Either you stand with the forces of freedom, or you’re in league with [Nicolas] Maduro and his mayhem.”
Guaido, the head of the opposition and president of the National Assembly, declared himself interim president on Wednesday, a step that was immediately recognized by the US.
Maduro, and his predecessor Hugo Chavez, have been harsh critics of Israel, with Chavez breaking off ties with Israel in 2009.
Netanyahu’s announcement followed an “unequivocal” recommendation from the Foreign Ministry to the prime minister to support Guaido. Immediately following the decision, US ambassador to Israel David Friedman tweeted, “Appreciation and kudos to the Government of Israel for standing with the people of Venezuela and the forces of freedom and democracy.”
Neither officials in the Foreign Ministry nor the Prime Minister’s Office would confirm reports that the US pressured Israel into the move.
Britain, Germany, France and Spain said over the weekend that they would recognize Guaido if Maduro failed to call fresh elections within eight days, an ultimatum Russia – which supports Maduro – said was “absurd,” and which the Venezuelan foreign minister dismissed as “childlike.”
Washington, Canada most Latin American nations and many European countries have labeled Maduro’s second-term election win last May fraudulent.
Maduro retains the loyalty of the armed forces, though Venezuela’s top military envoy to the US on Saturday defected to Guaido.
Among the other countries which recognized Guaido as interim president are Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Georgia, Panama and Peru. The countries supporting Maduro – in addition to Russia – include Iran, Turkey, Bolivia, Cuba, Mexico and Uruguay.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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