Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a packed schedule these next few days. After 20 hours of flight travel, today marks the initiation of his 10-day Latin American tour in an effort to boost trade and strengthen the bilateral relationship with Argentina, Paraguay, Colombia, and Mexico.
Netanyahu’s travel plans are no small coffee shop swing by. In fact, this is the first time a sitting Israeli Prime Minister will ever visit South America. On his short 48-hour visit to Argentina, Netanyahu is hitting all the bases and meeting with local political leaders as well as attending two memorial services.
He is speaking at and meeting with the survivors and families of the victims of the terrorist bombing of the Israeli Embassy back that occurred in 1992, as well as the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association building (AMIA), which suffered a terrorist attack in 1994.
The Israeli Prime Minister is scheduled to meet with President Mauricio Macri tomorrow morning at the Casa Rosada. In addition to cooperation agreements on technology, trade and security, Infobae broke a story today saying that the two leaders are set to sign a joint statement that says that the Argentine Foreign Ministry will hand over all government archives related to the Holocaust to Jerusalem.
This is a pretty historic event, as the delivery of this material – which until now remained a secret – could allegedly reveal vital information to Israel’s Justice department about what happened in Argentina after the end of World War II. (In case you don’t remember, there’s this… ahem… Nazi thing.) After Germany’s fall in 1945, many Nazi leaders fled to Buenos Aires and many suspect they were protected by the government.
A well-known case of this suspected collision would be that of Nazi leader Adolph Eichmann. As one of the main organizers of the Holocaust, and specifically a main visionary of the horrific “Final Solution” plan, Eichmann was responsible for the persecution and murder of millions of Jews. After arriving in Argentina in 1950 under false documentation, he was eventually captured by the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service, in 1960 and put on trial 1962, creating a major diplomatic rift with Argentina in the process.
Another notorious case was that of Erich Priebke, another Nazi war criminal who found refuge in Argentina in 1945. He lived in the country until the late 1990s when he was later captured and extradited to Italy for trial.
The Israeli ambassador to Buenos Aires, Ilan Sztulman, has been stealthily spearheading this project for the last four months. He has expressed strong expectations that the signing of these documents will help to build substantial ties between the two countries. As Sztulman noted while assessing bilateral relations, “We have never had as close a relationship as we have today with the administration of President Macri.”
According to a Foreign Ministry official who is part of the agreement, “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs deserves an applause” on the handoff of these until now unpublished documents. As the trade of open information “will have a global impact and strong reception from different Israeli organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, or the World Jewish Congress.”
President Macri’s developing relationship with the Israeli Prime Minister is making a 180 degree turn from that of the Fernández de Kirchner administration. In fact, the Prime Minister plans to thank President Macri for all of his administration’s recent efforts to annul the controversial memorandum of understanding that former President Cristina Kirchner had signed with Iran regarding the investigation of the AMIA terrorist attack of 1994, for which she is currently being called to the stand for.
Starting tomorrow, the Argentine and Israeli governments say they aim to work together to reveal more of the story of what happened after the Holocaust. As a government official said today, “there is a lot of documentation in the ministry, classified reports and documents that until now nobody knew that Argentina would deliver to Israel in order to contribute to the judicial cases that persist there by the atrocities committed by the Nazis.”
The Israeli diplomacy also reported that upon signing, these documents will have a great contribution to ongoing cases, and will be “very valuable and unprecedented” for the Jewish community.
Both Macri and Netanyahu say they aim to make this a part of a historic development between their two nations on grounds of solidarity and a change in political policies. As Netanyahu told President Jimmy Morales of Guatemala last fall, “Latin America has always been friendly to Israel, but I think we’re at a position where these relationships can be far, far, far advanced.”
As noted by the Jerusalem Post, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s trip perfectly matches with the 70th Anniversary of the UN partition plan vote. Notably, 13 Latin American and Caribbean countries were among 33 states that cast ballots in its favor, which paved the way for Israel’s independence.
This trip is a part of Netanyahu’s long stated goal to expand Israel’s ties with countries that go beyond regions such as North America and Europe, where diplomatic relations have often been its main focus. Accompanied by his wife and an entourage of different business leaders, Netanyahu will then wrap up his tour in a visit with US president Donald Trump in New York before returning to Israel for the Jewish New Year.