New Argentinian pres. says ties with Israel will improve, appoints rabbi to cabinet

Netanyahu called Macri, the center-right mayor of Buenos Aires on Wednesday to congratulate him on his victory, and said that he expected a strengthening of the relationship.

November 26, 2015 20:59
3 minute read.
Mauricio Macri

Conservative opposition candidate Mauricio Macri comfortably won Argentina's presidential election, November 22, 2015. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Argentina’s president-elect Mauricio Macri told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a phone call this week that Argentinian-Israeli relations will now change for the better, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

According to the PMO, Macri said the cooperation between the two countries will now widen. He has – since Sunday’s election – already pledged to tear up a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2013 with Iran which established a “truth commission” to jointly investigate bombings against Israeli and Jewish targets in Buenos Aires in the early 1990s which killed 114 people.

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On Wednesday, Netanyahu called Macri, the center-right mayor of Buenos Aires, to congratulate him on his victory, and said he expected a strengthening of the relationship.

Macri met Netanyahu in Jerusalem last year while attending a conference of mayors. At that time he told the prime minister he would like to see a strategic alliance with Israel.

The newly elected Argentine leader has already named his cabinet, including Conservative Rabbi Sergio Bergman, who will be the country’s environment minister.

The Argentinean-born Bergman received degrees in pharmacy and biochemistry in Argentina and then began studying at a rabbinical seminary in Buenos Aires. He later came to Israel and studied both at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and at Hebrew Union College, where he was ordained.

According to a JTA report last year, he is the senior rabbi of the traditional Congregacion Israelita Argentina, and founded Active Memory, a group that demonstrated every Monday for a decade seeking justice for the victims of the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires.

The Buenos Aires Herald said he has been one of the main opponents of the Memorandum of Understanding with Iran signed by the outgoing administration of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

Bergman, a member of Macri’s party and his close associate, passed on the opening of the 2014 legislative session in the Argentinian parliament because it was held on Shabbat.

In a 2013 interview in Haaretz, Bergman slammed Argentina’s Jewish Foreign Minister Hector Timerman for signing the MoU with Iran. He said Timerman lied to the families of the bombings and the parliament, “Operating with total impunity, Iran’s embassies in the region, together with Hezbollah cells and other Islamic groups, are busy raising funds and gathering support and promoting fundamentalist Islam, anti-Zionism, hatred of Jews and Holocaust denial,” he said.

“Unfortunately, Argentina is now a partner of Venezuela and Iran, and Israeli diplomacy isn’t doing enough to denounce these things.

“When we win the election we’ll carry out a revolution on these issues,” he continued. “And when the right time comes, there will be a need – in the Jewish community – to make an ethical judgment about current Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, who even though he is a Jew signed the agreement with Iran and betrayed the memory and dignity of the victims of terrorism.”

Asked about his connection to Israel, Bergman replied: “My commitment to Israel is related to preserving its centrality to the memory, the present and the future of the Jewish people, through a creative and symmetrical dialogue with the Jewish communities in the world.

“Israel must always be an option for every Jew who chooses to become an Israeli citizen,” he added. “But if he chooses to live in another country, his civil commitment must be given to the country in which he lives, while continuing to support the existence, sovereignty and security of Israel – especially given the great challenge of peace between Israelis and Palestinians and the other neighbors in the region.”

He also said it was not right for the Conservative and Reform movements in Israel to be denied full recognition from the Israeli government.

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