Thursday, January 15, 2009

Venezuela Cuts Diplomatic Ties

Hana Levi Julian Venezuela Cuts Diplomatic Ties

International media are reporting that Venezuela has cut its diplomatic ties with Israel to protest the Jewish State's counterterrorist Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, but Israel's Foreign Ministry said early Thursday morning that the statement was not quite accurate.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Haiat told Israel National News in an exclusive interview that the embassy in Caracas had not been closed and that the Venezuelan government has not recalled its Charges D'Affairs from the Jewish State. By 11:30 a.m., that situation had changed, however, with the Foreign Ministry apparently having receiving official notification from the Venezuelan government that it had indeed decided to cut ties.
Haiat declined to comment on Israel's response to the move.

One week ago the government of President Hugo Chavez expelled Israeli Ambassador Shlomo Cohen and his entire staff of seven from Caracas to protest Israel's military operation in Gaza. Venezuelan Jewish community leader Abraham Levy pointed out following the expulsion that the government was "taking the side of a terrorist group" while ignoring the fact that Hamas has fired thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians.

Bolivia, which has informal relations but no formal diplomatic ties with Israel, joined Venezuela in making threatening statements to charge the Jewish State with war crimes at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Both countries have become increasingly close allies of Iran, which supports terrorism against Israel and which generously funds the Hamas terror regime which controls Gaza. Iran also is a patron of the Lebanese Hizbullah terrorist organization which attacked Israel in 2006, igniting the Second Lebanon War.

Venezuela's Foreign Ministry said in its announcement that it had "decided to break off diplomatic relations with the State of Israel given the inhumane persecution of the Palestinian people." The statement added that the South American government of President Hugo Chavez "will not rest until it sees [Israeli leader punished," and indicated it would file charges against the State of Israel in The Hague.

Chavez, who has a close relationship with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has long been deeply critical of both Israel and the United States. Ahmadinejad is a virulent enemy of the Jewish State, which he refers to in his speeches as a "cancerous growth" and has often vowed to "wipe Israel off the map."

Bolivian President Evo Morales, who claimed the counterterrorist operation "seriously threatened world peace," also said he would ask the Court in The Hague to charge Israeli leaders with genocide.

News services said they were unable to reach Jewish community leaders in Venezuela for comment.

'You Can Hear Iran Talking Through His Mouth'

Haiat dismissed Morales's remarks, saying "We have not had very deep relations in the past few years, since our embassy closed in Bolivia, and theirs closed here in 2003." The closures, due to financial reasons and carried out during the tenure of a friendly administration, preceded Morales's regime, he noted.

As for Morales's threats to sue Israel in the International Criminal Court, Haiat said, "Those are just declarations.. You can see the influence of Iran there." He added that the current Bolivian leader "does not really know what is going on in the Middle East," and said, "You can hear Iran talking through his mouth."

More to the point, Haiat said that the Venezuelan government had indicated earlier that it expected Israel to send another diplomat, albeit one with a lower rank than that of an ambassador. The Chavez government has not recalled its Charges D'Affairs in Israel despite the charged statements to the media.

"We think it is very sad," said Haiat. "We see the growing influence of Iran in Latin America, especially on the government of Venezuela and its president, by the extremist Islamic regime of Iran. It has affected the warm and historical relationship that Israel has had with all the countries in Latin America, which played an important role in the creation of the State of Israel, when the United Nations voted for creation of the state in November 1947.

"We are sure that serious countries in Latin America will have nothing to do with this," he said.

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