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Argentina / Israel. It is time for the second dose to guarantee confidence back between both countries

Agencia AJN.- Relations between the two countries were affected by Argentina’s position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Even the American Jewish establishment expressed its “disappointment” by what happened. However, various gestures from one side to the other could put the diplomatic link on track. And an unexpected event, such as Bennett’s election as Israeli Prime Minister, could change the landscape. In his last visit to Argentina, Bennett had affirmed that “both States are partners in pain” due to the terrorist attacks occurred in Argentina.

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WhatsApp Image 2021-06-11 at 2.21.46 PM
In the picture, from left to right: Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Alberto Fernández, Naftalí Bennett, Benjamín Netanyahu and Isaac Herzog

Agencia AJN.- In an unexpected turn, Israeli politics will make a renewal of its main references. This Sunday Benjamin Netanyahu would leave power after 12 years and would be replaced by Naftalí Bennett, a man from the right-wing Yamina party, and by Yair Lapid, from the centrist Yesh Atid party. They would no longer be the same interlocutors swiveling around the well known history of the encounters and disagreements between Argentina and Israel, a saga that will need to be changed and improving the new chapters.

After the conflict between Israel and Hamas, the Jewish leadership and the State of Israel had to decode the new language of the Argentine government. There were signs that ended up being unexpected and overwhelming.

Does President Alberto Fernández speak the same language in public and in private? Does he have inalienable principles that can immediately vary? Does he say what each interlocutor wants to hear? Jewish leaders and Israeli diplomats ask themselves.

These and many other questions remained floating after the latest events, including Fernández’s meeting with DAIA authorities. Let us remember that the clash between Argentina and Israel was generated after a statement from the Argentine Foreign Ministry criticizing an alleged “disproportionate use of force by Israeli security units”, and supported an United Nations Human Rights Council initiative to investigate alleged war crimes against Palestinians by Israel. Clearly, the Argentinian national government hardened its position by failing to censor terrorism and fundamentalist aggression on the barrage of attacks and thousands of bombings by Palestinian Hamas terrorists. On AMIA’s terrorist attack anniversary in 2019, Argentina classified Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and the State of Israel did not delay giving thanks and “congratulating” this important decision.

Upon leaving the Casa Rosada (Pink House – the Argentinian President’s Office), DAIA treasurer, Marcos Cohen, who participated in the meeting assured that “Fernández stated that he legitimized the terrorist organization Hamas”, and Foreign Minister, Felipe Solá, clarified that he had “to point an error, which was that we did not expressly wrote Hamas group in the statement,” he said.

The Argentine ambassador to Israel, Sergio Urribarri, was summoned by the Israeli Foreign Ministry for a clarifying conversation as a result of Argentina’s vote in the Human Rights Council in favor of the creation of an investigative commission against Israel during the Middle East military operation. It was the deputy director general for Latin America and the Caribbean, Modi Ephraim, who clarified to the Argentine ambassador that “his country’s support (Argentina) for this biased resolution that ignores Hamas terrorism and the firing of 4,300 missiles against the citizens of Israel, it is something that Israel considers unacceptable”. At all times Sergio Urribarri had endeavored to enhance the prexistent excellent bilateral relations.

The Argentine reaction was immediate and a new statement from the Foreign Ministry in charge, Felipe Solá, within hours of the DAIAS’s meeting upheld the position once again of “guaranteeing respect for international human rights and international humanitarian law in the Territory Occupied Palestinian, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel”, adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council in a special session on May 27, which led to the creation of an investigative commission againts Israel. In the midst of the disagreements, the staff of the Argentine embassy was being victim of hundreds of missiles that reached Tel Aviv.

The Jewish leadership wonders if this cadence of “Frente de Todos” (the Goverment party) finally is a continuation of the 2003-2015 administration, the same that held an unconstitutional Memorandum with Iran; the recognition of a non-existent Palestinian State, with the consequent exchange of ambassadors and the opening of diplomatic delegations; the feast of the Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad; the official trip to the Palestinian territories of the then senator Cristina Fernández after visiting Israel with former Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman; and the election of a Jew (Héctor Timerman) as consul in New York, ambassador in Washington and chancellor because he would speak “the same language” as the Jewish-American lobby.

Simultaneously, the chancellor alternately approached and distanced himself from the AMIA and the DAIA’s institutions, which sometimes generated internal disputes between them. Finally, Timerman ended up presenting his “unwavering” resignation as a member of the Jewish cummunity center in Buenos Aires basing his decision on the “certainty that both institutions, (AMIA and DAIA) with their obstructionist actions, continue to impede progress in the investigation of the criminal terrorist attack that occurred on July 18, 1994 ”.

On the latest facts about the conflict with Hamas, Israel perceives a lack of reliability in this complex diplomatic labyrinth. On the other hand, but in the same vein, the American Jewish establishment expressed its “disappointment” by what happened.

Dina Siegel Vann was sparing no words when expressing her “disappointment” with Argentina’s position on the conflict. “It bothered us,” she assured and described Alberto´s Fernández government as “irrational”.

Dina Siegel Vann, director of the American Jewish Committee, was the one who interviewed Fernández a year ago on the 26th anniversary AMIA’s terrorist attack, and today she is into the President of the House of Deputies visit, Sergio Massa, to the United States.

Massa’s agenda pivots between Washington and New York, and Vann confirmed meetings with Jewish leaders which were asked by Masa time before the blast between Israel and Hamas. “This makes it more relevant,” he said, and when asked about the Argentine´s position issue with Israel will be part of the AJC’s agenda with Massa, Siegel confirmed that “there will be a conversation on the subject”, but stressed out that the spirit of the AJC it is always “building bridges.”

Everything was running on rails. President Alberto Fernández’s first trip abroad was to Israel, where he participated in an international mega-event for the Day of Remembrance of the Shoah Victims, on the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the Soviet Red Army at the Nazi extermination complex in Auschwitz-Birkenau. People in site were witnesses and agreed on a feeling generated by the relationship between Alberto Fernández and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

On that occasion, the Argentine president held an extensive and fruitful private meeting with the Hebrew Prime Minister.

Now, Naftalí Bennett shows up as the future Prime Minister of the State of Israel. He visited Argentina in March 2016 as the then Minister of Education and Diaspora Affairs, and participated on the 24th anniversary of Israel embassy´s terrorist attack, . During his brief visit, he assured that both States are partners in pain. “We do not forget the victims of the attack on the Israeli embassy and the AMIA, two attacks that were engraved in the memory of the Israeli and Argentine people, turning both States into partners in pain, where bystanders, Argentine citizens and neighbors lost their lives”, Bennett expressed.

Regarding Foreign Minister Felipe Solá, people remember and highlight his excellent links with the Jewish community when he was Buenos Aires province governor, he even attended during authorities changing in the AMIA’s institution when Abraham Kaul left the presidency in Pasteur, and he was able to do so, he was seen sitting in the auditorium stalls.

Roman Lejtman, in a recent article of his in the midst of the conflict referred to an expression of the Foreign Minister: “Gaza is similar to The Massacre, and the Jews are smarter and have more weapons than the Palestinians, that is why we believe that Israel’s attacks to Gaza are disproportionate”, said the Foreign Minister in Paris during the European tour he shared with Alberto Fernández.

Following those comments, Ambassador Galit Ronen hardened her position for the first time. “There are tensions with Argentina and the words of Felipe Solá were anti-Semitic” she said, and stated that she hopes “to be able to overcome the tense moment” in relationship with Argentina, but stressed that “Israel was waiting that a country that suffered bodily own two terrorist attacks be on the side of those who fight against terrorism”, referring to the UN country’s position.

Nobody is comfortable with what happened and the friendship between the two countries are being undertaken behind the scenes. In that sense, Galit Ronen related: “On June 4, I received from the Natio’s Presidency a congratulation letter about the president-elect of the State of Israel, Isaac Herzog, which I sent immediately to the Israeli Foreign Ministry and reached out to Herzog”.

Let us remember that in his first speech before the Legislative Assembly, on March 1st 2020, President Alberto Fernández mentioned Israel and expressed several concepts that were well received by the Jewish community, and there were also meetings and actions of a big exposure of different ministries and provinces with the Jewish State, especially by virtue of the great success it had in handling the new coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

In a quick reflection of Ambassador Serio Urribarri with the wink of Alberto Fernández, this allowed to work together with the Hadassah Medical Center in the reaching of concrete responses that would benefit Argentina in the work against the pandemic.

While diplomacy settled their differences over the Hamas conflict, Argentinian authorities received in Buenos Aires the visit of an important delegation from Haddasah Hospital Covid medical experts and the Biological Research Institute, and they shared their expertise on the pandemic management and evaluated the development of the Israeli BriLife vaccine in Argentina. Criticism of the Israelis people on social networks did not wait: “We are helping Argentina and we are outrageously watching now the position of the Foreign Ministry” before the UN decision.

Also the main Israeli NGO KKL reached agreements on water control projects and other initiatives with the help of Governor Juan Manzur in the provinces of Tucumán, Córdoba and Buenos Aires, while Ambassador Ronen carried out tree plantations in several municipalities as a sign of brotherhood between both countries.

In addition to the recent letter from President Fernández to his new partner Isaac Herzog, Ambassador Urribarri received at his residence the delegation of Hadassah doctors and health professionals who traveled to Argentina and talked about the commitments to the country, this Thursday night .

All the gestures on one side to the other will define the final destiny. It is time for a second dose, which once again guarantees confidence back between the two countries.

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AJN News

Bahrain’s Ambassador to the United States: “Bahrain and Israel and will lead to a sustainable peace in the Middle East”

AJN Agency.- The signing of the Abraham agreements represents the “promise to build a better life with security and opportunities for all,” said Houda Nonoo, former Bahrain ambassador to the United States in an exclusive interview with the AJN agency.

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H.E. Ambassador Houda Nonoo (hi res)

AJN Agency.- Houda Nonoo was Bahrain’s ambassador to the United States between 2008 and 2013 and became the first Jewish diplomat in the Arab region, and the third woman to be designated Bahrain’s ambassador. In dialogue with the AJN agency, she assured that “while anti-Semitism is on the rise in the West, there is a great way of life in Bahrain and it is a wonderful place to raise a Jewish family”.

During the interview with AJN, Ambassador Nonoo shared her analysis on the Abraham Accords signed with Israel and stressed that “they will lead to a sustainable peace in the Middle East.”

Furthermore, she narrated what was it like to visit Israel for the first time in November 2020: “I had the honour and privilege of participating in a delegation, led by the Foreign Minister to Israel – the first time Bahraini officials landed in Israel, flying on our national carrier, Gulf Air Flight number 972. While it was historic and memorable for all, it was particularly exciting for me as a Bahraini Jew.”

AJN: What do the Abraham Accords mean to you?

HN: As a citizen of this region, I am filled with excitement to see the construction of a new Middle East, one focused on coexistence and prosperity. I am immensely grateful to His Majesty, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and His Royal Highness, Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince and Prime Minister, for their leadership, vision, and courage to lead our nation proudly and boldly into the future through the signing of the Abraham Accords. I, like my fellow Bahraini citizens, express our support and enthusiasm, for the opportunity our leaders have seized and the promise it represents to build a better life with security and opportunity for all of us and for future generations still to come.

AJN: What is your perception of this new reality in the Middle East?

HN: I believe that at the core of this agreement is the desire to create a new Middle East, one built on peace and prosperity for all. I believe that the growing partnerships between Bahrain and Israel, will lead to sustainable peace in the region.

AJN: After the signing of the Abraham Accords, social networks were flooded with favorable expressions and a lot of acceptance that left us astonished.
Were you also surprised or did you already know that the signing would be very well received?

HN: Yes, it was very exciting to see social media was buzzing with comments, photos and videos of support. Immediately after the announcement of the establishment of relations, our Jewish community in Bahrain received calls and emails from Jews around the world wishing us a mazal tov – or mabrouk, as we say in Arabic – and shared their enthusiasm and eagerness to visit us soon.

world trade center

El World Trade Center de Bahrein

AJN: What do you believe is the future for the Bahrain-Israel relationship following the signing of the Accords?

HN: While 2020 was historic for Bahrain and Israel, I have always felt that 2021 would be even better as we begin to feel its influence. In Bahrain, we see a few areas of opportunity resulting from the new Bahrain-Israel relationship, including oil & gas, logistics, information, cyber-security, technology, manufacturing, financial services, healthcare, education, and travel and tourism.

The COVID pandemic impacted economies around the world. Now, as economies open up again, there is a new market for businesses in Bahrain and Israel to tap into. The opportunities in technology, start-ups, fintech, industrial manufacturing, real estate, agriculture, food processing and consumer goods have no limits. Additionally, our countries can benefit from sharing best practices as we continue to strengthen our economies.

In January, the National Bank of Bahrain signed MOUs with Israel’s two largest banks – Bank Hapoalim and Bank Leumi. This was an important first step as both governments created plans to help their business communities participate in opportunities in both markets. These MOUs helped enable investments, trade, clearing services, foreign exchange, securities trade and other critical components to facilitate business between the two.

AJN: Was there an agreement also signed with Mekorot, the Israeli water company?

HN: Yes. Recently, Bahrain signed a $3 million-dollar agreement with Mekorot to share water knowledge and technologies. The agreement includes consulting by Mekorot for Bahrain’s Electricity and Water Authority (EWA) regarding water projects.

Israel is known for its healthcare innovation, creating cutting edge solutions to some of the world’s most complex healthcare challenges. By partnering, we can propel healthcare forward. We can also benefit from an exchange of doctors, research and medical training programs.

Recently, Bahrain and Israel announced our first medical cooperation initiative between Salmaniya Medical Complex, our largest government hospital, and Sheba Medical Center which includes exchange programs.

Gulf Air, our national carrier, announced that it is planning on launching direct flights to Tel Aviv. I believe that will open up travel between our two countries and many of our hotels are developing special packages and offerings for Israeli guests.

This is just the beginning, there are many more announcements to come.

AJN: In November 2020, you visited Israel for the first time, can you describe your experience?

HN: I had the honour and privilege of participating in a delegation, led by the Foreign Minister to Israel – the first time Bahraini officials landed in Israel, flying on our national carrier, Gulf Air Flight number 972. While it was historic and memorable for all, it was particularly exciting for me as a Bahraini Jew.

This was my very first visit to Israel. Ironically, after never visiting Israel my whole life, I went twice within one week. During my five years serving in Washington, I made many new friends and was often asked if I had been to Israel. I always said, “Not yet.” In my heart, I hoped and prayed for the opportunity, but I was determined to wait for the moment when circumstances would allow such a visit. As a loyal and committed citizen of Bahrain, I naturally respected the reality of the situation. I could only dream. And hope. And wait. And dream some more. In November, that dream became a reality.

I am so delighted to have had the chance to visit. It was the manifestation of a dream that I have dreamed since I was a young child. As we embarked on the flight back to Manama, I thought about how one of the drivers for the Abraham Accords was to create a better future for our children – yours and mine. We are setting an example for them that focuses on building relationships. One which reminds them that we are stronger together. I pray that all of us now dedicate ourselves to the great work ahead to make the dreams come true for the youth of our region, and that’s broader than just the youth in Israel and the Gulf.

AJN: I’ve seen your Shabbat Shalom series every Friday through your social media. What inspired you to do this?

HN: I have always enjoyed connecting with people and after the Abraham Accords, I received many inquiries from media and Jews around the world, asking me about what this time meant for me, for our community and asking to learn more about Bahrain and our Jewish community. This became the impetus for me to rejoin Twitter and in many ways, the response was even more than I anticipated.

Many of the questions I receive center around a common theme – what is it like being Jewish in Bahrain? While I could continue to answer those questions, I wanted to do more, and to show just how accepting Bahrain is of our religion.

I was inspired to create the Shabbat Shalom series where each Friday, I bring traditionally Jewish items – like my Shabbat candles and Kiddush cup – and the now famous Kedem bottle of grape juice and take a picture of them with Bahraini landmarks such as the Tree of Life and King Fahd Causeway, which links Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

tower

Gran Mezquita de Bahrein

So far, these two words, “Shabbat Shalom,” have created a buzz and have reached more than 1.8 million people from all over the world who wish each other Shabbat Shalom because of these tweets. The feedback has been amazing – Jews, Muslims and Christians from all over the world (the US, UK, Europe, the Gulf, Israel, other Middle Eastern countries and Asia), all replying with a Shabbat Shalom greeting of their own and learning about Bahrain at the same time.

My hope is that, as more people are vaccinated that they will come visit Bahrain in person and experience these sites for themselves but until then, I’ll continue to enjoy sharing these little slices of Bahrain with you all.

AJN: In February, the Association of Gulf Jewish Communities launched and which you sit on the board of. What inspired the creation of the AGJC?

HN: As Jewish life continues to grow in the Arabian Gulf as more Jews move to the region for business opportunities, there is a greater need for more kosher food options, Pesach programs in hotels, Jewish schools, youth programming, additional synagogues and Jewish infrastructure. The Gulf has many things to offer. For example, whereas antisemitism is on the rise in the West, we don’t have any issues with that here. There is a great lifestyle, and it is a wonderful place to raise a Jewish family.

The AGJC is a people-to-people network of the Jewish communities from the GCC countries, who are developing Jewish life in the region. While each community is independent, we share a common goal and vision: for Jewish life in the GCC to flourish for the benefit of both residents and visitors. Under the spiritual leadership of Rabbi Dr. Elie Abadie, based in Dubai, and president Ebrahim Dawood Nonoo, based in Bahrain, we are partnering on different communal programs and services so that our resources, will enhance each other. The Association’s board consists of members from all six Gulf countries, who together will forge the path forward for growing Jewish life in the Gulf.

Under the AGJC, The Beth Din of Arabia, is in the process of being established, to assist with issues pertaining to personal status, inheritance, and voluntary business dispute resolutions in the region. The Arabian Kosher Certification Agency is also in the process of being created to oversee kashrut regionally using the same set of standards throughout all six Gulf countries, thereby making it easier for Jewish individuals to live in or travel around the Gulf.

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AJN News

President Alberto Fernández greets to the elected Prime Minister of Israel

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WhatsApp Image 2021-06-15 at 12.48.49 PM

Agencia AJN.- .- The president of Argentina, Alberto Fernández, paid his respects and greetings to the elected Prime Minister Naftali Bennet.

Fernández remarked that “there are strong emotional, historical and cultural ties that are renewed day by day” between the two countries.

WhatsApp Image 2021-06-15 at 12.38.47 PM

“The Jewish community in the Argentine Republic is the most important in the Latin American Region.
Our countries built a common space that allows us to share an extensive work agenda. I hope that we can move foward in our joint tasks”, Fernández expressed in his letter.

“I take this opportunity to renew the ties that unite our States and wish your Government every success”, concluded Argentina’s President.

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