Today, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu lands in Argentina. Official Israeli trips to this country can be traced back to 1951, when Golda Meir came here, inaugurating a succession of future visits that included those of Abba Eban, Levy Eshkol, David Ben-Gurion, Isaac Rabin and Shimon Peres.
Netanyahu’s visit comes at a new political moment in Argentina. A few weeks ago the Vice President of the United States Mike Pence was here. Previously we were visited by Barack Obama. President Mauricio Macri met with Donald Trump in Washington DC. Macri and Netanyahu had a meeting in Davos, and the former, when he was mayor of Buenos Aires, visited Israel. The Buenos Aires legislature declared the Israeli premier an “illustrious visitor”.
All this is new for Argentines accustomed to twelve years of Kirchnerismo, which associated itself with diplomatic enthusiasm with nations like Cuba, Venezuela, Libya and Iran, and supported the Palestinian cause at the United Nations. During her tenure, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner traveled to Libya, where she praised Muammar Gadaffi, applauded Hugo Chavez and the Castro brothers, and embraced Ahmadinejad’s Iran, with whom she signed a Memorandum of Understanding that sought to exonerate the perpetrators of the AMIA bombing in 1994. She is currently being investigated by the justice and could be accused of complicity with Iran and possibly indicted for treason.
So the Netanyahu trip can be seen as a mark of support for this South American country´s new international orientation. Unsurprisingly, hostile voices have emerged from the usual quarters: Islamic radicals, local Palestinians, anti-Zionist militants and left-wing Jews.
Thus, a leftist parliamentarian presented a draft declaration in the Chamber of Deputies that blames Israel for being a “genocidal”, “colonialist” and “artificial” state. The Islamic Organization of Argentina issued a statement that defines the Jewish state as “terrorist, criminal and usurper.” The head of the Federation of Argentine-Palestinian Entities told Efe that Netanyahu “is fundamentally a criminal, product of a colonizing ideology that has to do with Zionism and that has also kidnapped Judaism.” A group called The Committee for the Expression of Peoples organized a press conference to protest against bilateral relations between the two countries. Argentine Jews, some of them residents of Israel, published in the opposition newspaper Página12 an open letter to Macri and Netanyahu demanding the release of documents pertaining to relations between the two countries in the period of the Argentine dictatorship, 1976-1983. The Argentine Committee of Solidarity with the Palestinian People called for a protest-march in front of the Israeli embassy, which garnered the support of the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights, the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo Founding Line, the Military Center for Democracy in Argentina and other groups that behind the mask of human rights promote an anti-liberal and Third-World agenda. A group of anti-Zionist Jews allied with Kirchnerismo repudiated Netanyahu’s visit and the strengthening of Israel’s relations with Argentina, Mexico and Colombia -the other stops of the journey- because they seek to promote “closer partnerships with neoliberal governments that privilege policies decidedly anti-popular” and condemned the security accords to be signed for -“undoubtedly”- aiming at “the repression of the social struggles of the most humble sectors of our continent.” Che Guevara still lives here.
Given this avalanche of hostile protestations, a handful of Argentine Jewish intellectuals took the initiative to publicly declare ourselves in favor of this visit and gave our personal welcome to the Israeli premier. We also stated: “We believe that the meeting between the leaders of two vibrant democracies should be applauded, not protested, and we are pleased that Argentina in the last year and a half has chosen to approach the free nations of the world, leaving aside the strange fascination that the previous government had shown for totalitarian regimes.” We know that we reflect the feelings of the majority of the Jews of Argentina.