Why Netanyahu’s Trip to Latin America Matters

Sept. 14 2017

Today Benjamin Netanyahu concludes his stay in Argentina and flies to Colombia as part of the first-ever official visit by an Israeli prime minister to Latin America. Emmanuel Navon recounts the many ups and downs of the Jewish state’s relations with the region, and explains why improving these relations is important:

While most Latin American countries voted in favor of partition at the UN in 1947, their voting patterns at the General Assembly became unfavorable to Israel from the 1960s onward. In 1964, a voting bloc of Third World countries (known as the “Group of 77”) was formed at the General Assembly. Latin American countries were part of this bloc, which was very much influenced by its Arab and Muslim members. . . . [However], Latin America became the last bastion of Israel’s presence in the Third World after 1973: Israel was isolated from Africa, and it had no diplomatic relations with China and India. . . .

Except for Nicaragua after the 1979 Sandinista Revolution, all Central American countries, as well as Argentina, bought weapons from Israel. This was a win-win relationship since Latin America needed Israel’s weapons as much as Israel needed Latin America’s oil (especially after the 1979 Iranian revolution). Communist guerrillas [trying to overthrow these regimes] also happened to have close ties with the PLO and with anti-Western Arab leaders. The Sandinistas [who eventually seized power] in Nicaragua, for example, had been cooperating with the PLO since 1969, and they enjoyed the military and financial support of the Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

In recent years, relations between Israel and Latin America have been overshadowed by the influence of Iran and Hizballah. On July 18, 1994, the Jewish community center of Buenos Aires was bombed, killing 85 people. It was revealed in October 2006 that Iran had ordered the bombing and that Hizballah had carried it out. . . . Hizballah’s presence in Latin America has since then been growing through the expansion of Iran’s diplomatic and intelligence missions, businesses, and investments. . . .

Argentina’s previous president, Cristina Kirchner, had developed strong ties with Iran. Her successor and political opponent, Mauricio Macri (elected in December 2015), has rectified Argentina’s foreign policy. He is well-disposed toward the West and toward Israel, and Netanyahu is right to build a personal relationship with him as well as with other like-minded Latin American leaders. The prime minister’s trip to Latin America is timely, and his diplomatic initiative praiseworthy.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Argentina, Benjamin Netanyahu, Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Latin America


Israel’s Economy Thrives While the Middle East Disintegrates

Jan. 19 2018

Now that the data have come in from 2017, it is clear that the Israeli economy had another successful year, expanding at a rate higher than that of any other advanced country. Israel’s per-capita GDP also grew, placing it above those of France and Japan. Daniel Kryger notes some of the implications regarding the Jewish state’s place in the Middle East:

The contrast between first-world Israel and the surrounding third-world Arab states is larger today than ever before. Israel’s GDP per capita is almost twenty times the GDP per capita of impoverished Egypt and five times larger than semi-developed Lebanon.

Like any human project, Israel is a never-ending work in progress and much work remains to integrate ḥaredi Jews and Israeli Arabs into Israel’s knowledge economy. Properly addressing Israel’s high costs of living requires more economic and legislative reforms and breaking up inefficient oligopolies that keep the prices artificially high. However, by any standard, the reborn Jewish state is a remarkable success story. . . .

Much has changed since OPEC launched its oil embargo against the West after the failed Arab aggression against Israel in October 1973. Before the collapse of the pro-Arab Soviet empire, China and India had no official ties with Israel and many Western and Japanese companies avoided doing business with Israel. Collapsing oil prices have dramatically eroded the power of oil-producing countries. It has become obvious that the future belongs to those who innovate, not those who happen to sit on oil. Israel has today strong commercial ties with China and a thriving partnership with India. Business delegations from Jamaica to Japan are eager to do business with Israel and benefit from Israel’s expertise. . . .

[For its part], the boycott, divest, and sanction (BDS) movement may bully Jewish and pro-Israel students on Western campuses. However, in real life, BDS stands no chance of succeeding against Israel. The reason is simple: reborn Israel has . . . become too valuable a player in the global economy.

Read more at Mida

More about: BDS, Israel & Zionism, Israeli economy, Middle East, OPEC