Wednesday, April 17, 2024

ARGENTINA | 14-02-2024 17:30

Can Javier Milei really move Argentina's Israeli Embassy to Jerusalem?

Upon landing in Israel last week, President Javier Milei declared that Argentina’s diplomatic base in the Middle Eastern nation would be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Critics, however, are already raising questions about the viability of such a move.

Arriving in Tel Aviv last week, President Javier Milei confirmed his promise to move the Argentina Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. The announcement caused controversy since the legendary city – while controlled unilaterally by the country – has a special international status in line with the unresolved conflict with Palestinians.

The ultimate transfer of the Embassy to the Holy City would mean a drastic change to Argentine diplomatic tradition. The nation Milei now leads has remained neutral since the start of the conflict after the partition of Palestine, which gave rise to the State of Israel in 1948. United Nations Resolution 181 also gave special status to Jerusalem, under the premise that it would be an “international city” divided into two parts: the Western one, under Israeli orbit; and the Eastern one, ruled by the Arabs and considered the capital of the ultimate State of Palestine. 

However, since 1967, Israel has ruled over the entire city, following its occupation after the Six-Day War. Back then, most countries remained “neutral” about the status of Jerusalem (the peak of the Arab-Israeli conflict).

In 2017, then-US president Donald Trump set a precedent by making the United States the first global power to move its Embassy to Jerusalem, with the Republican leader disregarding criticism for going against international regulations.


Is it possible?

If Milei is to fulfil his promise, he will have to overcome a few local obstacles, some dating back to the time that then-leader Juan Domingo Perón recognised the State of Israel in 1951, making Argentina the first nation in the region to do so.

Recognition of the brand-new Jewish State was made official with Law 14,025 of June that year, following an exchange of notes signed by Argentina’s then-foreign minister Juan Atilio Bramuglia and his then-Israeli counterpart, Carlos Grunberg.

As for Jerusalem, the law provides that Argentina’s Embassy must be in Tel Aviv, as did most countries which signed the UN resolution on the partition of Palestine. Therefore, for Milei to actually physically move the Embassy, he must encourage the amendment of the regulation before Congress.

“It’s a law that reflects diplomatic negotiations over which both states decided that the Argentine Embassy has to be in Tel Aviv. For this to change, the law must be changed,” constitutional lawyer Andrés Gil Domínguez explained to Perfil. “There have to be new diplomatic negotiations, a new exchange of notes. If this law isn’t modified, the embassy cannot be moved.”

The La Libertad Avanza government must therefore present a bill to amend the law before Congress. Firmly in the minority in both chambers, with only 38 deputies and seven senators, this may pose a problem for the new head of state.

Yet President Milei has another option: issuing an emergency decree to repeal the law or clause that establishes the location of the seat of the Argentine Embassy in Israel.

According to the Constitution, the president may repeal laws by decree, provided that they do not govern expressly prohibited matters, including criminal, tax, electoral or political parties. However, if he chooses this route, Congress will still have the final say. By act or omission, it can green-light or block the transfer of the diplomatic seat.


In the minority

Out of the 193 countries affiliated to the United Nations, a mere three recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel: the United States, which was then followed by Honduras and Guatemala. There is also Kosovo, a state which has not been fully recognised by the international community.

Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December 2017 was questioned even by the leaders of allied nations, especially due to its implications for the stalled peace process in the Middle East. In an emergency meeting, 14 out of 15 members on the UN Security Council condemned the decision (which did not prosper given the US veto). The General Assembly, in turn, approved a resolution to ask its members not to follow Trump’s example and keep their embassies where they are.

Argentina has previously ratified its support to Jerusalem’s special status, as established by the UN resolution, and “regretted” unilateral measures to modify its status.

The ball is now in Milei’s court.



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