Ivan Duque, a pro-Israel politician who recently expressed his willingness to consider moving his country’s embassy to Jerusalem, won Colombia’s presidential elections.
By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
Ivan Duque, Colombia’s new president-elect as of Tuesday, has said that his government would look carefully into the idea of moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in order to strengthen ties with Israel.
In an election event with Christians last month, the conservative Duque was reported in the Confidencial Colombia news site as saying he would work to “maintain the best possible relations with the State of Israel.”
“We cannot reject the possibility of having a diplomatic headquarters in Jerusalem” if it would contribute to strengthening that relationship, he stated.
The 41-year-old former economist and first-term senator made these comments the day Guatemala relocated its embassy to Jerusalem, which directly followed the United States’ festive ceremony celebrating its own embassy move.
Though his audience supported his statement with applause, others were quick to condemn it, including a local Colombian-Arab cultural association.
His leftist opponent, who was harsh in his criticism of Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, accused the IDF of perpetrating a “massacre” of Palestinians when they rioted violently at the Israel-Gaza border on the day of the American changeover.
It should be noted that Duque did add the caveat that such a move “should be reviewed with care so that it does not have consequences for the Colombians living in Israel.”
Colombia is one of Israel’s biggest trading partners in Latin America, with military equipment being one of its biggest exports to the country. Colombia needed the arms as it fought the Marxist-Leninist terror group FARC for decades in a war that cost some 220,000 lives.
In 2016, President Juan Manuel Santos signed a historic peace agreement with FARC, and Israel immediately offered to deepen other areas of cooperation to develop the country, such as water technology and agriculture. The security ties remain intact as well, as Colombia has an uneasy relationship with neighboring Venezuela.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cultivated a strong friendship with Santos (who was constitutionally barred from seeking re-election) and made Colombia one of his stops on his Latin American tour last year.
In 2010 and 2011, Colombia was the only South American country that did not recognize the Palestinian Authority as a Palestinian state.
As temporary member of the Security Council in 2011, Colombia opposed recognition of the PA as the Palestinian state, thus saving the US from using its veto.
So far, only Guatemala and Paraguay have followed the American lead and moved their embassies in Israel to Jerusalem. Other countries, such as the Czech Republic and Romania, have hinted that they are open to the idea, and now Colombia joins them.