— Dan Diker and Michael Thaidigsmann, WJC
Editor: Colombia is a bright spot in a continent with a sordid history of anti-Semitism. Many Nazis found refuge in South America after World War II. Now, all of the independent countries in South America except Colombia have recognized the Palestinian Authority as an independent state contrary to the Oslo Accords and in fact Argentina has offered suspend inquiries into attacks on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 and the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association in 1994 in exchange for better trade relations. Fortunately, Colombia has taken a firm stand in support of Israel.
A high-level delegation of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) and its Latin American branch, led by WJC President Ronald S. Lauder, today met with the president of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos Calderón. The leaders thanked Santos for his support to the Jewish community and the State of Israel. Lauder told the Colombian president: “We value your friendship and courage for Israel and the Jewish people. We also appreciate that you have withstood pressure from fellow Latin American leaders to prematurely recognize a Palestinian state.” Santos assured the Jewish leaders that his government would stand firm on this issue. He said that as a matter of principle Colombia would not follow other governments in the region which had recently recognized a yet-to-be-established unilaterally declared Palestinian state. He emphasized that the only path to peace in the Middle East was through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
World Jewish Congress Secretary-General Designate Dan Diker expressed gratitude for Colombia’s strong stance on this issue and said that “a return to the borders prior to 1967 would intensify the current instability across the Middle East region while posing a security threat to Israel by radical Islamists that also has ramifications for the wider world, including Latin America”.
During the meeting, the Colombian leader spoke warmly of his admiration for the Jewish people and for Israel’s achievement in the fields of high tech, specifically biotechnology and information technology. WJC President Lauder extended an invitation to the Colombian leader to give the keynote address at the meeting of the World Jewish Congress Governing Board in Jerusalem this coming June.
Latin American Jewish Congress President Jack Terpins expressed appreciation for Bogotá’s commitment in fighting the growing influence of the Iranian regime on the continent. “In Colombia, you know what horrible suffering terrorism inflicts on people. After the two deadly bomb attacks against the AMIA Center and the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in the 1990s that were orchestrated by Iran we Jews know that extremists must be vigorously opposed. We hope that a consensus can be reached among political leaders here that currently, Tehran cannot be a partner for closer political or economic cooperation in any shape or form.”
Also present at the meeting at the presidential palace Casa de Nariño in Bogotá was the chairman of the WJC Governing Board, Eduardo Elsztain, who praised Santos as a man of truth and principle. The meeting also included senior representatives of the Colombian Jewish community.