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17 Oct, 2023 15:32

Latin American state urges Israeli ambassdor to go home

Bogota’s top diplomat says Israel’s ambassador should ‘apologize and leave’ after harsh words for the Latin American country’s president
Latin American state urges Israeli ambassdor to go home

Colombian Foreign Minister Alvaro Leyva said Monday that Israel’s ambassador in Bogota Gali Dagan should “apologize and leave the country” after criticizing the position taken by President of Colombia Gustavo Petro on the IDF-Hamas conflict in Gaza. The minister noted that the envoy will not be expelled, but advised Dagan to respect the host-country’s president as is mandatory in diplomatic relations.

On Sunday, Dagan replied to Petro’s publication on X (formerly Twitter) in which the Colombian claimed that Palestinian militant group Hamas was an invention of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency. The envoy wrote sarcastically that “it is true.” He added: “I would like to share with you additional information from our intelligence services, which are some of the best in the world: The Elders of Zion founded the Gulf Clan. There are still Jews, with large, aquiline noses, who command the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia.”

The bitter diplomatic spat between the two nations began a day after October 7, when the Palestinian armed group Hamas launched a surprise attack on civilian and military targets in neighboring Israel from Gaza and took dozens of hostages. Israel, in response, launched retaliatory airstrikes on the enclave.

Commenting on X about the escalation, Petro wrote that he’d been studying the Gaza conflict since his early years and knew that the Palestinian people had suffered “immense injustice.” The South American leader noted that now the “neo-Nazis” want the “destruction of the Palestinian people, freedom and culture.”

On October 9, Israel announced a “total” blockade of Gaza, including a ban on food, electricity and fuel. Israel’s defense minister commented that his country was fighting “beastly people.”

Colombia’s leader in response wrote “this is what the Nazis said about the Jews,” noting that “democratic societies cannot allow Nazism to reestablish itself in international politics” and that a discourse of hate would bring “a holocaust.”

The Colombia-Israel dispute intensified Sunday when Israel publicly condemned Petro’s statements. Petro’s words “inflame antisemitism, harm representatives of the State of Israel and threaten the safety of the Jewish community in Colombia,” the country’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Colombia’s ambassador to Israel Margarita Manjarrez was summoned for an official reprimand, at which she was informed that defense cooperation between the countries would be suspended. Israel has been one of Bogota’s largest suppliers of weapons to fight drug cartels and rebel groups.

Later that day, Petro responded to Israel’s decision to stop security exports to Colombia, with a post on X saying “If we must suspend diplomatic relations with Israel, then that is what we will do.” He also called on Latin America to “show solidarity” with his country.

The unexpected rocket and ground assault on Israel from Gaza has sparked days of fighting, with Israel responding with retaliatory airstrikes on the Palestinian enclave and vowing to eliminate Hamas. Israeli officials say the death toll has reached about 1,400, while the Palestinian Health Ministry has reported more than 2,800 deaths in Gaza.