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WORLD | 27-04-2024 05:12

‘Moving Argentina's Embassy to West Jerusalem is an important step,’ says Israeli vice-ambassador

Adam Levene, Israel’s second-in-command in Buenos Aires, on his nation’s “very special” connection with Argentina and bilateral relations across Latin America.

President Javier Milei has reorientated Argentina’s foreign policy since taking office and no nation has been backed more forcefully than Israel.

Following Iran’s unprecedented attack on Israeli territory earlier this month, Israeli Deputy Ambassador Adam Levene spoke with the Times.

 

President Milei has obviously been a strong supporter of Israel. What has this support meant to the Israeli people?

First, I think more than anything else, on a moral level, it’s very important for the people of Israel to know that other people and governments around the world appreciate the situation we’re in — that they understand what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, and that they support those efforts…

Argentina’s connection to Israel is a very special one on all kinds of different levels. With our joint history together and the complications of the past, it is definitely more relevant than it is for other countries to maybe understand the possible dangers and damages that the Iranian regime can do.

After the [1992] attack on the [Israeli] Embassy and the [1994] attack on the AMIA building, it’s something which we share in common, this understanding. That sympathy and connection from Argentina specifically has more meaning — every country is important, of course, but it has a special meaning. 

Israel has a very big Argentine community, and there’s a big Jewish community here [in Argentina], which also makes the relationship more personal and involved. There are over 100,000 people in Israel with Argentine roots, so that also gives added value to the relationship. 

 

Other South American countries have been less supportive of Israel, especially since the October 7 attacks. Brazil is one obvious example that comes to mind. How important is it for the Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry to maintain a positive position in Latin America?

It’s very important, I think, for a number of reasons. As the world gets smaller, the countries that are further away become more and more important… Within this region, there are countries that are more supportive of Israel than others, but I wouldn’t even say that it’s the countries, but rather the governments of the time. If you look at actual public opinion within Brazil, they’ve actually been quite understanding, and you can see that in a lot of ways, including from several governors of regions in Brazil. But at the national level … our relationship with them is not as close as it was in the past, but it’s still very important for us. 

You can see that relationship with Uruguay and Paraguay; it’s very good and understanding. Some countries, depending on their political alignment, may be less understanding of Israel, but we make a big effort for our positions to be understood by the public, and by governments, even if we don’t agree with them. 

 

President Milei has announced his intention to move the Argentine Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. How would this measure improve the relationship between the countries?

Of course it will improve the relationship. It’s an important step, and we hope that he will do it, but we understand that this is an Argentine decision. How they do it and when they do it will be up to them. Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Israel. It’s been the capital of Israel for thousands of years…

President Milei has stated that he will be passing the Embassy to West Jerusalem, and we will of course encourage that step, but we leave it up to the Argentine government to decide how, when, and in what form they will do this. 

 

Rabbi Axel Wahnish, a very close personal advisor to President Milei, has confirmed as Argentina’s ambassador to Israel. How do you think this appointment would impact Israeli-Argentine relations?

From our perspective, it’s very simple: Argentina decides who they think will be an appropriate ambassador. And we will accept with open arms whoever that person may be. That was true for the previous government, and it’s true for this government as well. For Axel Wahnish, it’s not for us to give him a grade. We think that he would be a very good and appropriate ambassador. We will accept and help him in his position when he arrives here in Israel.

 

Can you speak to the security challenges that have arisen for the Embassy in Buenos Aires since the October 7 attacks?

We have decided, since October, but lately in particular, to up the security all around the world, for obvious reasons. Iran attacked the Embassy in the past. This is not the only place around the world where Iran and the Revolutionary Guard have attacked, in one way or another, Israeli embassies – there’s been Georgia, Thailand, Bulgaria, and sadly a very long list of incidents. So the level of security in this situation is obviously higher than it normally would be, but it’s very important to say that the level of security here in Argentina is no more or less than other places around the world. 

It makes life slightly more complicated, of course, but I’d also like to say, on that level, the security forces of Argentina, on a federal and municipal level, do a wonderful job of cooperating. They’re fantastic. I’m not just saying that to be polite. 

We’re very appreciative of President Milei and his Cabinet ministers, and the [Buenos Aires] City [government], and also of the opposition as well. It’s important to say that before the elections, with the issue of Gaza and the hostages, many who have Argentine citizenship, Argentina has been very clear that it will do whatever is possible to help these people. And it’s very much appreciated.

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Sam Forster

Sam Forster

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