Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu makes historic visit to Latin America

World Today

Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu makes historic visit to Latin AmericaIsraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, receives from Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri, a box with digital documentation of the Holocaust, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has begun a historic tour of Latin America, including visits to Mexico and Colombia.

His first stop is in Argentina, home to the largest Jewish community in the region.

CGTN’s Joel Richards reports from Buenos Aires.

Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Argentina this week for a historic visit – the first time a sitting Israeli Prime Minister has visited South America.

Argentina is home to Latin America’s largest Jewish community. It’s also been the target of major terrorist attacks.

In 1992, 29 were killed in the bombing of the Israeli embassy. And two years later, 85 died in a suicide attack at the Jewish cultural center.

On Monday, Netanyahu paid tribute to the victims of both attacks, and on Tuesday blamed Iran while pledging to fight global terrorism.

“We understand that this terrorism attacks everyone – in Barcelona, in Berlin, in Manchester, in London, in Paris, in every country around the world, terrorism strikes, and just as the attacks are indivisible, the response should be indivisible,” said Netanyahu.

Argentina also handed over World War Two era documents, some relating to Nazi war criminals, for Israel to investigate.

This first-ever visit of an Israeli prime minister to South America is not only seen as a way to boost political support for Israel in international forums, but also to increase trade with this region.

“We interpret this visit as a proof of confidence in this new chapter of changes in our country and as a ratification of our commitment to work together,” said Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri.

Israel and South American bloc Mercosur have a free trade agreement, and while analysts said that trade between the two countries is minimal, this visit was made possible after a shift in Argentina’s foreign policy.

“There is a basic difference, not because the previous government that governed between 2003 and 2015 was anti-Israeli, not at all,” said Jorge Castro, an international analyst.  “But rather it was a political system in which the priority was building a domestic power base, so international relations were secondary.”

Security is tight in Buenos Aires, given Netanyahu’s high profile visit. Some scattered protests have been organized by leftist groups.

The Israeli prime minister will head to Colombia on Wednesday, then Mexico, before speaking at the U.N. General Assembly.