Netanyahu to return to South America for the second time in 11 months

Last September Netanyahu went to Argentina, Colombia and Mexico, before traveling to New York for the annual UN General Assembly meeting.

By
July 29, 2018 21:48
2 minute read.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara Netanyahu en route to South America, September

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara Netanyahu en route to South America, September 10, 2017.. (photo credit: AVI OHAYON - GPO)

In a strong signal that Israel is serious about reaching out to Latin America, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Sunday that he will travel to the region for the second time in less than a year next week to attend the inauguration in Bogota of Colombia’s newly- elected president Ivan Duque.

Some 15 presidents from South and Central American countries are expected to attend the ceremony on August 7, and Netanyahu is expected to hold bilateral talks with many of them.

Among those expected to attend are the new presidents of Mexico, Chile and Peru, as well as the presidents of Guatemala and Paraguay, which both opened their embassies in Jerusalem in May.

Modi Efraim, the Foreign Ministry’s deputy-director general for Latin America, said that Netanyahu’s visit is a statement that his trip to Latin America last year – the first ever by a sitting Israeli prime minister – was not just a “one time historic” visit but that there will be “continuation.”

Last September Netanyahu went to Argentina, Colombia and Mexico, before traveling to New York for the annual UN General Assembly meeting. Though he only spent a few hours in Bogota on that trip, this time he will be there for three nights, leaving Israel next Monday and returning that Thursday.

Efraim said that the trip is also a signal of the importance Israel attributes to its ties with Colombia, and its interest in continuing those strategic ties with the new president, who is considered a strong friend of Israel.

Duque said on the campaign trail that he would consider moving his country’s embassy to Jerusalem, and that his government would work “to maintain the best possible relations with the State of Israel.”

Among the issues Netanyahu is expected to discuss with the Latin American leaders are economic and diplomatic cooperation, including changing voting patterns towards Israel at the UN.

The decision to travel to Colombia, however, means that Netanyahu will most likely not attend a summit in Guatemala in November. He told a delegation of chairpersons of foreign affairs committees of Latin American parliaments last month that he intended to make that trip.

The prime minister is expected to make two other trips in August, both to attend meetings that will bring together a number of regional leaders: one of them in Croatia which will be attended by Balkan state leaders, and another in the Baltics to be attended by the leaders of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

Attending regional summits, one diplomatic official said, affords Netanyahu the opportunity to effectively maximize his time by meeting more than one leader at a time during his trips abroad, and also enables Israel to build alliances with regional groups that – in international forums – can be more effective.

For instance, building alliances with the Baltic and Balkan states, in addition to ones already formed with Greece and Cyprus and the Visegrad Group of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, is a way of defusing the impact of less sympathetic countries toward Israel in the EU regarding statements and decisions on the Mideast coming out of Brussels.


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