Benjamin Netanyahu .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
When it comes to support for Israel, Uruguay is turning into the Canada of South America, at least if a recent phone call between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez is any indication.
Netanyahu phoned Vázquez late last week to thank him for his country’s recent support for Israel in international forums, a source in the Prime Minister’s Office said Monday.
The source, briefed on the conversation, said it came after Uruguay has broken out of the bloc of countries that automatically vote against Israel, and has supported Israel in recent votes in international and regional bodies.
For instance, Uruguay joined Israel and the United States in voting against a UN decision earlier this month to grant observer status to a British based NGO – the Palestinian Return Center – that Israel says is linked to Hamas.
Twelve other countries voted in favor of the resolution, and three friendly countries – India, Greece and Russia – abstained, but did not, like Uruguay, vote against.
Government officials said that in addition to the vote at the UN, Uruguay – a substantial soccer power – “was on Israel’s side” in defeating Palestinian efforts to get Israel kicked out of FIFA, soccer’s world governing body.
Also, in December a senior Iranian diplomat was forced to leave Uruguay the month before after he was suspected of involvement in planting a dummy bomb some 70 meters from the building that houses the Israeli embassy in Montevideo.
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The source said Netanyahu’s call came about because the Uruguayan president was “a friend,” and it was important for Israel to express its appreciation.
Netanyahu told Vázquez that there was room to expand the business, hi-tech, and investment cooperation between the countries.
Uruguay’s shift began after the election in November of Vázquez, from the ruling leftist coalition, who succeeded José Alberto Mujica.
Mujica termed Israel’s operation in Gaza last summer as “genocide,” and called the Gaza Strip a “big concentration camp.”
This is the second term in office for Vázquez, an oncologist, who visited Israel during his first term from 2005-2010, and once before in 1982 at a cancer research seminar.
He is believed to have good ties with Uruguay’s 20,000-strong Jewish community.
Uruguay’s vote in support of Israel this month represented a significant switch in its voting pattern at the UN.
For example, in 2011 Uruguay voted to accept “Palestine” as a full member in UNESCO, and in 2012 voted to accord “Palestine” non-member observer state status in the UN.
During the phone call, Netanyahu invited Vázquez to visit Israel, and they also discussed setting up a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September.
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