Ecuadoran President Guillermo Lasso this week became the first sitting president of his country to visit Israel and he and his large delegation were welcomed by President Isaac Herzog at the President’s Residence.
During the visit, Lasso and his wife Maria de Lourdes Alcivar, will inaugurate Ecuador’s Office for technology and innovation at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The 100-member delegation of government and business people as well as 50 young people specializing in innovation will remain in Israel for two weeks visiting universities and looking at innovative projects.
With occasional exceptions, Ecuador has been a friend of Israel since before the establishment of the state. The South American nation was one of the 33 United Nations member states that voted in favor of the partition of Palestine on November 29, 1947, clearing the way for Israel’s eventual independence the following year.
Although Quito and Jerusalem established diplomatic relations well over sixty years ago, no president of Israel has visited Ecuador and no president of Ecuador had previously visited Israel.
One of Lasso’s predecessors, Rafael Correa, who was due to visit Israel in the second half of 2014, canceled because of the 51-day Gaza war that year. Ecuador has an Arab diaspora and is home to over 14,000 people of Palestinian origin.
Herzog said he was impressed by the way that Lasso, who was elected a year ago, had handled coronavirus in his country and he thanked his counterpart for the friendship he has demonstrated towards Israel, and for the positive change in his country’s attitude to the Jewish state.
Herzog, a proponent of individual and national outreach, said: “Our mission is to do good.” Then, listing areas of Israeli expertise such as technology, agriculture, science, energy and research and development, he told Lasso that Israel would be happy to cooperate with Ecuador in all these spheres.
He also conveyed his good wishes to the Jewish community of Ecuador which is represented in Israel by Ecuador’s ambassador Helen Deller Klein.
Lasso also referred to the Jewish community (roughly 600-800 souls, mostly residing in Quito), and said that it was a very active community from whose ranks the ambassador had been selected.
He said that it was a great honor to spend time with Herzog, especially because he has always admired Israel, and even more so when looking at what has been achieved in 74 years of statehood.
Lasso mentioned that Ecuador will celebrate its 200th anniversary of independence in 2030, implying that in that time frame it had not been able to achieve what Israel has achieved in 74 years.
Ecuador is at a stage where it wants to strengthen relations with all its friends, of which Israel is one, Lasso said, adding that this applies to political, economic, cultural and tourist relations. He said that the two countries were in the process of negotiating a Free Trade Agreement.
He also commented that the two countries support each other at the United Nations.
Throughout their meeting, neither Lasso nor ambassador Klein could wipe the smiles off their faces.