Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Argentina's President Macri make a toast during Netanyahu's visit to Argentina.
(photo credit: HANDOUT/REUTERS)
BUENOS AIRES – Argentina’s attitude toward Israel has gone from the hostility of the period of the rule of Nestor Kirchner and later his wife, Cristina, from 2003 to 2015, to one of genuine friendship under current President Mauricio Macri, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday, shortly after meeting the president here.
“What happened here is that a new era has begun,” Netanyahu told reporters during a briefing.
He said that Macri, who is trying to change Argentina’s overly regulated and centralized economy, is looking to Israel as an example.
Economic issues, rather than diplomatic ones dominated their meeting, he said, noting that the Palestinians were not discussed once.
Following his meeting with Macri, Netanyahu met with another South American ally, Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes, who flew to Buenos Aires for the meeting.
Before the meeting, Cartes – who was assisted in his 2013 elections by an Israeli consulting firm started by Ari Harow
, Netanyahu’s chief of staff who is now a state’s witness in investigations involving Netanyahu – said Israel and Paraguay are working very well together, “though I think there is much more to do.
“Relations are like a muscle, you have to practice and work every day,” Cartes said. “But you have to know that we like you very much.”
Security issues were among those high on the agenda of the talks, as Paraguay faces a challenge from Hezbollah elements who have penetrated its tri-border area with Argentina and Brazil.During Cartes’s visit in 2016
, Israel acknowledged publicly that it was cooperating with Paraguay and maintaining a “supportive role” in actions against Hezbollah in the tri-border area.
Cooperation has been going on Israel, for years in the area where there is a high concentration of Shi’ites of Lebanese descent who have set up a logistical base that assists the terrorist organization.
Much of this cooperation is in the form of intelligence.
The US State Department’s 2016 report on terrorism stated that “Paraguay continued to face challenges of ineffective immigration, customs and law enforcement controls along its porous borders, particularly the Tri-Border Area with Argentina and Brazil. Illicit activities within the TBA remained potential funding sources for terrorist organizations, most notably Hezbollah.”
The report said that Hezbollah continues to maintain a presence in South America and the Caribbean, “with members, facilitators and supporters engaging in activity in support of the organization. This included efforts to build Hezbollah’s infrastructure in South America and fund-raising, both through licit and illicit means.”
Netanyahu concluded his two-day visit to Argentina on Thursday morning, and flew to Bogota, Colombia, to meet there with President Juan Manuel Santos.
Israel and Colombia have for years maintained a very strong security relationship as the government there fought a recently concluded war there for over a half century against the Marxist- Leninist FARC terrorist organization.
Colombia has for years been Israel’s staunchest ally in South American.
Netanyahu is scheduled to only be in the country for some three hours, before flying to Mexico, but this stopover – according to diplomatic officials – was necessary to show appreciation for the country’s long support.
On Wednesday night Netanyahu will fly to Mexico for a day of meetings, before continuing on to New York on Friday for a meeting with US President Donald Trump
and to give an address at the UN General Assembly.