BUENOS AIRES – After a flight of some 20 hours, with a brief refueling layover in Madrid, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu landed at noon here on Monday to begin a four-day swing through three countries in Latin America before heading to New York on Friday.
“This trip marks a new era in relations between Israel and Latin America,” Netanyahu told reporters on his plane, just before landing. He attributed the development to Israel’s changing status in the world as well as its security, technological and cyber power.
The new era is also a result of changing orientations among many countries in Latin America away from identification with the “third world,” he said Netanyahu added that this visit is not just a one-off trip, but one that will be followed by other visits. He said his participation in a regional meeting in Peru in April is currently being considered.
Shortly after landing, Netanyahu took part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the site of the Israeli embassy destroyed in a blast 25 years ago that killed 29 people.
Four Israelis were among the victims of the 1992 bombing, and family members of three of them accompanied Netanyahu on his flight.
Following that ceremony, the prime minister was expected to visit the AMIA Jewish community building, where 89 people were killed in a bombing in 1994, the worst terrorist attack in Argentinian history.
Both blasts are believed to have been carried out by Hezbollah acting on Iranian orders. Highly contentious investigations of the attacks have been carried out since, intermittently straining ties between Israel and Argentina because of their inconclusive nature.
Netanyahu was also scheduled to hold an event Monday evening with representatives of the local Jewish community. Argentina’s Jewish community – the biggest in Latin America – numbers some 200,000, and is the sixth-largest Jewish community in the world.
The diplomatic aspect of Netanyahu’s visit will begin Tuesday, when he will hold separate meetings with Argentina’s president, and the president of Paraguay, who is traveling to Buenos Aires especially for the meeting.
On Wednesday, Netanyahu will travel to Colombia for just over three hours, before continuing on to Mexico.