Israel has a friend in Argentina, its neighbors should follow suit

Israel has a friend in Argentina, its neighbors should follow suit
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The actions of countries in South and Central America has a huge impact on U.S. domestic policy. It is for that reason it is encouraging to see a number of countries, led by President Mauricio Macri of Argentina, seek to build better relationships with Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Israeli prime minister is undertaking a 10-day tour of the region and the visit is far from ceremonial. It highlights a shift in policy from countries including Argentina, Columbia, Paraguay and Mexico paving the way for them there to form a greater allegiance with Israel.

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Common interest between South America and both Israel and the U.S. on topics such as the rise of international terrorism and the danger posed by Iran and Hezbollah are a uniting force. It has been reported that South America has been used for the purpose of laundering money from Hezbollah and many are fearful that this could develop into larger criminal and perhaps even terrorist activity. Israel’s intelligence and expertise will be beneficial to countries across the Americas. We will all be in a better position to fight these evils if relationships are solidified and there is better collaboration.

 

Israel’s burgeoning technology sector also means that trade links can continue to grow. I have long advocated for Science Diplomacy and I have facilitated programs offering technology to countries in Africa, encouraging improved relations and dialog with the U.S. and Israel. This visit has the potential to have a similar impact. If Israel is able to improve health care or facilitate cleaner water to those who have limited access, it will have positive repercussions for political ties.

The U.S. and Israel have had a challenging relationship with the region over the last 70 years, with the strident left wing politics of many of the countries regularly siding with those opposed to our values in my view. It is important that we work past those issues and this tour is the first step.

It has also been noted that the trip coincides with the 70th anniversary of the U.N. partition plan vote, when 13 Latin American and Caribbean countries were among 33 states that cast ballots in its favor, paving the way for Israel’s independence. Israel owes a debt of gratitude to those countries and it is incredibly encouraging to see that they once again have a shared vision and approach.

Netanyahu’s visit will have long term political, social and trade repercussions. Shared interests mean that countries are willing to engage and Israel’s expertise will have a lasting impact, not just bilaterally but also here in the United States.

Israel’s relationship with Argentina has improved since Macri won the presidency in 2015 and now provides a case study for wider engagement. I had the pleasure of introducing the then Mayor Macri of Buenos Aires to Netanyahu at the American Jewish Congress’ Mayors Conference in Israel and to see them meet again this week is a source of great personal pride. Macri has changed Argentina’s approach to Israel and the Jewish community. His efforts to find those responsible for the bombing of the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina in 1994 has been outstanding. Not only is he cooperating on issues like the rise of Hezbollah but he also has proved that he is willing to fight for Israel in international institutions.

Macri has shown that this relationship goes beyond empty gestures and that he is willing to extend the true hand of friendship to Israel. The announcement that Argentina is transferring archives documenting Argentina’s relationship with Nazi Germany shows their level of commitment. It is expected that these documents will be "of great value to the Jewish people."

The world needs more leaders like Macri who are willing to put their reputations on the line for the Jewish community. Argentina is the cornerstone of the U.S. relationship with South America and the country’s influence goes far beyond its borders. Macri has once again shown that his values are in line with our own and that he is willing to go the extra mile. Netanyahu’s entire tour is based on the need for better dialogue and engagement. Macri has set a precedent and we all hope that the rest of the region will follow.

Jack Rosen is president of the American Jewish Congress, an organization fighting for the civil rights and civil liberties of minorities.