Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Following groundbreaking visits by an Israeli prime minister over the last 13 months to Kazakhstan, Singapore, Australia and five African states, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to visit Argentina and Mexico in September, which would make him the first sitting Israeli prime minister to ever visit Latin America.
While the trips to the two Spanish-speaking countries have not yet been finalized, they are in the advanced planning stages and are expected to take place in mid-September. If all goes as expected, Netanyahu would go to Argentina and Mexico, and from there travel to New York to address the UN General Assembly.
Netanyahu is scheduled to address the world body on September 19, the same day as US President Donald Trump.
He is then expected to fly back that night in order to return home before the onset of Rosh Hashana on September 20.
The trip would coincide with the 70th anniversary of the UN partition plan vote when 13 Latin American and Caribbean countries were among 33 states that cast ballots in its favor, paving the way for Israel’s independence.
Cuba was the only Latin American country to vote against. The visits to Argentina and Mexico, if they come to fruition, would represent a “historic” and “significant” upgrade in Israel’s relations with this part of the globe, said one diplomatic source.
This is an extension of Netanyahu’s policy of seeking to improve ties with regions of the world in which Israel has not heavily invested or concentrated on in the past.
Netanyahu planned to visit Mexico, Panama and Colombia in 2014, but the visits were scrapped because of a Foreign Ministry strike at the time.
Since then, Israel’s ties with Argentina have improved considerably as a result of the victory in the 2015 presidential election of Mauricio Macri, with whom Netanyahu has developed a strong relationship.
The trip to Mexico also sends a signal that its abstention in UNESCO votes on Jerusalem last year, as well as friction over a tweet Netanyahu posted regarding the efficacy of a border wall, are not hindering ties between the countries.
Argentina, Mexico, Colombia and Brazil are considered by Jerusalem to be the leading diplomatic and economic powers in Latin America.
However, Netanyahu will not have time on this trip to visit all of them. In addition to having considerable economic and diplomatic clout, both Argentina and Mexico have strong, Zionist Jewish communities.
Netanyahu spoke publicly last November of an intention to visit Latin America during a visit to Jerusalem by Guatemala’s President Jimmy Morales, who also invited the prime minister to his country.
“Latin America has always been friendly to Israel, but I think we’re at a position where these relationships can be far, far, far advanced,” Netanyahu said at the time.
Diplomatic officials said the Latin American and Caribbean countries are interested in much of the same things from Israel as are the African states, such as technology and agricultural, security and medical knowledge.
An indication of Latin America’s desire to cooperate closely with Israel was evident last week during a visit to the country by Luis Almagro, secretary-general of the 35-member Organization of American States.
It was the first visit of an OAS Secretary General in years.