Israel Expands Overtures to South America
As part of an outreach approach towards Latin America adopted by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman immediately after assuming his post, Israel is currently hosting a delegation of legislators from South America. The visit is intended to offer the Latin American leaders an insight into the Israeli reality and other regional issues.
The Conference of Latin American Parliamentarians, sponsored by the Foreign Ministry and the Knesset, opened on June 14 and will run through the 18th of the month. Twenty-six senators and members of parliament from thirteen states are in Israel to attend the conference, among them the president of the El Salvadoran Parliament and the chairs of foreign affairs committees from Chile, Mexico and Paraguay.
During the conference, participants will meet with Israel's President Shimon Peres, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, and various Knesset members. Personalities from academia and government will address the conference on topics relating to Israel, the peace process, the Middle East and the Iranian nuclear threat.
According to the Foreign Ministry, the Latin American legislators' visit "is of great importance in furthering Foreign Minister Lieberman's desire to promote Israel in Latin America and to boost political and economic ties with the various states there." With the Israeli counterterrorism offensive in Gaza, which ended in January, came a cooling - and in some cases, a cutting - of relations with several South American states.
Addressing a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee earlier this month, Lieberman cited Iran's intensive efforts to spread its influence and undercover cells in South America. To counter this development, he said, Israel has an obligation to invest in diplomatic initiatives in those regions.
To that end, Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon participated in the annual conference of the Organization of American States (OAS) that was held in Honduras at the beginning of June. Israel is also soon due to reopen its consulate in San Paolo, Brazil.