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War on Gaza helping to pause transfer of Argentina’s embassy to Jerusalem, expert says

April 16, 2024 at 3:02 pm

Javier Milei (L), President of Argentina meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) in West Jerusalem on February 07, 2024 [GPO/Handout/Anadolu Agency]

Less than two months after a promise made by Argentina’s President Javier Milei during his visit to Israel to transfer its embassy to Jerusalem, the Argentinian Senate has decided to freeze the process. Instead, the Argentinian government has proposed to appoint a new ambassador to Israel.

According to local reports, the Argentine Senate decided to stop the transfer process after numerous days of negotiations due to the disagreement of leftist legislators, arguing that Jerusalem is classified as a disputed territory by the United Nations (UN). According to Argentine law, South American countries should not establish any embassy or political institutions in “occupied and disputed territories”.

“This will not happen and the country will not do anything that goes against the UN resolutions that caused the freezing of the embassy transfer,” Minister of Foreign Affairs Diana Mondino asserted.

In addition, the president of the centre-left Unión Cívica Radical (UCR) party has indicated that this law stems from Argentina’s long-standing claim to the Malvinas Islands, which are under British control.

Latin American affairs specialist Ali Farhat told MEMO that Argentina’s President Javier Milei did not decide to freeze the embassy transfer, but the decision was imposed on him by the Argentine Senate. “The Argentine President’s decision to transfer the embassy was an emotional step, it isn’t based on any clear political vision, and he did not benefit from the experiences of others such as Brazil and Paraguay,” Farhat explained.

“The majority of Argentina’s political figures have been clear that they will not involve Argentina in such policies that could negatively affect Argentina’s foreign relations and the image of Argentina in general. Milei was raising these slogans for the affection of the Jewish community, dreaming of getting close to the United States and Israel,” Farhat added.

“Consequently, he raised many slogans without realising that it would be impossible to achieve them due to Argentina’s historical relationship with the Palestinian people and the Palestinian cause. The rejection was from all political figures in Argentina, even the far-right themselves,” he continued.

According to Farhat, Argentina and the overwhelming majority of Latin American countries have distanced themselves from the occupation state of Israel during its aggression against the Palestinians in Gaza. Farhat sees that such decisions, like transferring the embassy, show Argentina as a partner of the occupation in its crimes and decisions that do not respect the resolutions of the UN or the resolutions of international legitimacy.

Farhat clarified that despite the Argentine president having expressed his strong support for Israel and the war against Gaza and has demanded the “immediate and unconditional release” of Israeli prisoners held by the Palestinian resistance, the Gaza War helped freeze the transfer of Argentina’s embassy to Jerusalem. Farhat confirmed that Gaza awakened the global conscience and had a major impact on all countries, especially Latin America. In Argentina, for example, solidarity with Palestinians is fast becoming a regular feature of daily life.

“The occupation’s aggression against Gaza and the massacres they commit daily against the civilians in Gaza facilitated the role of the opposing party in Argentina. What the occupation is doing in Gaza now has great condemnation here in Argentina and the Argentina government takes it into serious consideration,” Farhat expressed.

Instead of transferring the embassy, the Argentine Senate Agreements Commission approved the nomination of President Milei’s personal rabbi, Shimon Axel Wahnish, as the new ambassador to Israel. Wahnish has been close to Milei and is widely understood to be responsible for Milei’s recent closeness to the Jewish religion. According to Israel’s foreign ministry, Wahnish is the only rabbi in history to serve as an ambassador to Israel. He will be responsible for maintaining the improved relations between Argentina, home to the sixth-largest Jewish community in the world, and Israel.

Several leftist senators from the UCR and representatives of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires requested Wahnish’s nomination to be linked to halting the embassy’s move to Jerusalem.

Approving Wahnish as ambassador reverses the image of how the Argentine president has become more connected to Israel in recent years and chooses the US and Israel as Argentina’s strategic partners. “People used to think that a president is above other people and is not human. We want to show that everyone has emotions and still grows spiritually as better people,” Wahnish remarked.

Milei has stressed on several occasions that his main international alignments are with the US and Israel. This is while condemnations are increasing around the world against the occupation regime for killing tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza in the last seven months and forcing a significant portion of the enclave’s population into severe famine.

READ: Argentine president declares unwavering support for Israel after Iran attack