Israel’s Growing Activity in Latin America
In addition to his success in penetrating Africa, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began his activity in Latin America even before the rather strong, right-wing election victories in the continent. Perhaps Netanyahu’s greatest success was with the ultra-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, whom he attended his inauguration ceremony on the first visit by an Israeli prime minister to Brazil. The Israeli government confirmed that the visit to Latin America’s largest country boosted trade and economic relations between the two countries, amounting to 1.2 billion dollars.
The present Israeli Prime Minister, last year, made his first tour of Latin America, including Argentina, Colombia and Mexico, in which he sought to expand Israel’s diplomatic and political ties through technological and defense exports and to persuade them to vote for Israel at the UN, especially when the Zionist state faces criticism of its position against the Palestinians.
As usual, Israel invested the weapon of economy to win over Latin countries and to improve the economic conditions of the Zionist state. Netanyahu’s ‘economic’ moves began in 2013 when he declared that “the Pacific Alliance of Latin America is the next economic goal that will enable the Israeli economy to continue to grow.” Modi Ephraim, head of Latin America division at the Israeli Foreign Ministry, boasted: “Today there are about 150 Israeli companies operating in Mexico, more than 100 companies in Colombia and Argentina. And in Brazil, there are about 200 Israeli companies that produce advanced technology equipment, 42 Israeli companies producing security systems and equipment, and 17 companies producing medical devices and equipment”. Moreover, reports of the military export division of the Israeli “Ministry of Defense” recently revealed that “Latin American countries received large amounts of Israeli arms which helped to strengthen their relations with Israel and later reflected on their support to it in international forums, as seen in recent decisions by a number of Latin American countries to transfer their embassies to Jerusalem “, namely, Honduras, Guatemala and Paraguay which later backed off.
The Spanish newspaper El Pais published a revealing report on the new relations that Israel seeks to promote with Latin American countries, and cited Brazil as an example. “The relations between Brazil and Israel are not the result of a rational policy of a state with the authority or motivation for international cooperation, but rather the fruits of shared ideologies, norms and values,” the report said. In this regard, it is well known that evangelical Christians spread across Latin America, and they feel connected to the ‘Jewish cause’. “Evangelical Christians in Latin America are convinced that the rebuilding of a temple in the Temple Mount in Jerusalem will ultimately lead to the return of Jesus Christ,” said Marcio Palacios, director of the school of political science at San Carlos University in Guatemala.
Netanyahu’s moves were not only meant to restore diplomatic ties with Latin American countries, but he also went further to prevent the collapse of strong relations with other countries supporting the Zionist state and are originally in the US orbit in the Latin continent, especially after Paraguay reversed its decision to move its embassy to occupied . Israel considered its decision as a serious blow, weeks after another decision by Colombia recognizing the state of Palestine, and both allies are close to Israel. Such situation indicates that the decisions of some Latin American countries to support Israel in the past years have been linked to appeasement of US administrations, because they were largely dependent on aid from Washington. But this has changed with the Trump policy of “America first” and abandonment of many of the US allies. Indeed, the Latin America expert and professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem Arie Kacowicz said “The leaders of the Latin American continent are looking to win over the United States for support, and although some of them are looking to strengthen ties with Israel, yet, it is not their main focus, their relations with the United States is their goal and intent.”
During the wars on Gaza Strip, most Latin American states went beyond statements condemning Israel, recalling some of their ambassadors from Tel Aviv, while demonstrations and marches took to the streets in most Latin American countries in solidarity with Gaza and the Palestinian cause. This is why, the Arab and Moslem States should be totally aware that Israel’s success in Latin America means losing a big voice supporting the Palestinian cause. So, should we call upon the Arab League, and indeed every Arab and Moslem country, to take the political/ diplomatic initiative to confront Israeli activity in Latin America (and in Africa as well as other Asian countries) or will we be flogging a dead horse?