The Israeli government announced its recognition of opposition leader Juan Guaidó as president of Venezuela on Sunday, Arab48 has reported. This is apparently following pressure by the United States for the Zionist state to speed up its declaration of support for the coup d'état aimed at toppling elected Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
"Israel joins the United States, Canada, most of Latin America and Europe in recognising the new leadership in Venezuela," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video posted on his official website.
"We will be happy to renew relations with Israel, and we expect to work in partnership with the Israeli government," an anonymous opposition official from Venezuela responded. "We will not act like [late Venezuelan President] Hugo Chavez, who has cursed Israel and described Israeli officials as murderers. On the contrary, we will embrace Israel."
Israeli media reported on Saturday that the US had asked Israel to officially recognise Guaidó as the legitimate leader of Venezuela. According to reports, a letter from the Trump administration was sent on Thursday by the US Department of State to diplomats at the Israeli Embassy in Washington. "A similar message was issued by the United States to its allies around the world," claimed an official at the embassy.
READ: Hamas, PLO slam 'blatant US interference' in Venezuela affairs
Ynetnews, the website of Yedioth Ahronoth, reported that Israel's hesitation to recognise Guaidó's leadership claim is down to concern about the safety of the small Jewish community in Venezuela. Israeli foreign policy would normally be fully consistent with US policy in the South American country.
In a related move, Venezuela's military attaché in Washington, Colonel José Luis Silva, announced his break with President Maduro, as officials in Caracas said both they and the US have reduced their diplomatic missions to a minimum. Silva's split was welcomed by the White House, which described it as "an example of the role of the Venezuelan army that the US appreciates."
The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry confirmed on Saturday that a number of US diplomats formerly based in Caracas have left the country. The ministry said that Caracas and Washington will negotiate the opening of offices to oversee trade relations and procedures relating to migrants. The negotiations will last for a maximum of 30 days and the Venezuelan government will allow US embassy staff to remain in the country until the talks are over.
"If no agreement is reached," explained the ministry, "the US embassy staff will have to leave the country within a maximum of 72 hours."
Last Wednesday, Maduro announced that diplomatic relations with the United States had been severed as he accused the US authorities of masterminding a coup against him.
Venezuela has been under growing tension since Wednesday after Guaidó, who heads the parliament with an opposition majority, claimed his right to be interim president until a new election is held. He has US support but Russia and China, among other states, insist that Maduro is the legitimate president.