December 21, 2014
Growing outrage at Gaza unites LatAm
Regional condemnation at Tel Aviv’s military offensive against Hamas becomes louder
With the conflict in Gaza worsening by the day, horrifying images emerging from the territory and the death toll now reaching more than 1,300, several Latin American countries have united their voices to condemn the Israeli military offensive by recalling their ambassadors from Tel Aviv.
The growing momentum against Israel’s attacks on Gaza in the region is particularly notable, with many Western governments refusing to condemn Israel’s actions in such strong terms.
Outcry so far against the violence has been heard from Brazil, Ecuador, Chile, Peru, El Salvador, Bolivia and the Mercosur bloc.
The trailblazers were Brazil and Ecuador over a week ago, when they recalled their respective envoys in Israel and demanded an immediate ceasefire. This week Chile, Peru and El Salvador joined the protest against the “scale and intensity” of Israeli attacks by summoning their envoys from Tel Aviv for “consultations.”
At an institutional level, the Mercosur bloc — which consists of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Venezuela and Paraguay, newly restored to the group — issued a communiqué earlier this week condemning the “disproportionate use of force” by the Israeli military in Gaza, calling for “an immediate and long-lasting ceasefire.”
More weight together
The particular countries that have chosen to express their sentiments mean the fallout will be heavier, say regional analysts.
“Chile’s and Brazil’s actions (recalling their envoys) will generate more political waves in the region than if Venezuela had chosen the same path in the conflict,” Marcelo Cavarozzi, a political analyst and professor at the Economic Sciences department of the Buenos Aires University told the Herald. However, the political scientist said the recalling of the envoys is a “minor punishment.”
He believes that the solution to this conflict is to negotiate with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.
Diplomatic actions could create local issues too. In Chile, the local Jewish community has pushed back against the government’s actions. Some Jewish groups in Chile gathered in front of the La Moneda presidential palace yesterday to voice their rejection of the government’s decision to withdraw the ambassador from Tel Aviv. They delivered a letter addressed to President Michelle Bachelet, expressing their disgust.
The local Jewish association’s president, Gerardo Gorodischer, told local media that the envoy’s removal is an “assymetrical act, which is unacceptable due to Chile’s membership of the United Nations’ Security Council.”
The latest regional neighbour to join the outcry was Bolivia, with President Evo Morales branding Israel a “terrorist state” — the strongest language from Latin America directed at the Jewish state so far.
After a Cabinet meeting yesterday, Morales also announced that Israeli citizens will now need to apply for a visa to enter Bolivia.
With this decision the Andean country renounced a long-standing visa agreement, formed with Israel in 1972, a move that highlights the strength of Bolivia’s diplomatic feeling.
“Unfortunately the government of Israel does not respect international conventions, nor human rights,” Morales declared, speaking to journalists.
Argentina has not yet recalled its ambassador from Israel but President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, while attending a Mercosur summit in Caracas on Tuesday, also called for an immediate ceasefire and said that “lives are at stake, not wealth and resources”.
Cosigning the Mercosur statement, she also repeated Argentina’s position on the disputed Middle East region, saying it “recognizes Palestine’s right to exist” but also “Israel’s right to live in peace within its borders,” a reference to ongoing rocket strikes from Hamas militants aimed at Israel.
There are two possible reasons why Argentina has not been more critical of Israel’s offensive so far, says Cavarozzi.
The first could be that the government is too busy trying to avoid defaulting on its debt, he said. The second may be that Argentina is treading particularly carefully due to the government’s difficult relationship with the Delegation of Argentine-Israeli Associations (DAIA).
For Cavarozzi, Argentina’s lack of a firm position comes as no surprise, he told the Herald, as for him “Argentina practically does not have a Foreign Affairs ministry.”