26 Oct, 2020
JERUSALEM WEATHER

Fearing backlash from its strongest allies in US Congress, Israel has decided not to issue a statement in support of warming relations between the US and Cuba, Haaretz reported. The decision, announced last Wednesday by senior Israeli officials, comes despite a request from Washington for that support.

Israel has long backed America’s embargo against Cuba in the United Nations, where an annual vote is held on a resolution to end it. Some years, including this past vote in October, Israel has been the sole voice of support on the American side. Israeli officials were surprised, therefore, when the US announced its reconciliation with Cuba without warning.

“They didn’t even give us a few minutes’ notice,” a senior Israeli official told the Israeli paper. Although Israel’s Foreign Ministry had some inkling of the shifting relationship, Washington said nothing about secret talks held in Canada and the Vatican between the two states.

After announcing the resumption of diplomatic ties with Cuba, US embassies around the world asked their host governments to issue statements of support for the move. After much consideration, Israel opted to decline.

Israel’s decision was influenced both by its exclusion from the reconciliation process and its concerns about dissent within the American government. Most of those who stand against the reconciliation are staunch supporters of Israel, and far closer allies than the Barack Obama administration has been.

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Among those in the anti-Cuba camp are Havana-born Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Democratic Senator Robert Menendez.

Rather than rush into anything, Israeli officials opted to wait and see how US-Cuba relations develop. In fact, rather than support the move, Israel publicly expressed concern over it.

According to Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Israel’s support for the US embargo on Cuba was also the result of Cuba’s hostility towards Israel.

“We followed the United States’ lead on this issue…There was no love lost between Israel and the Castro regime. Castro had supported some of the worst enemies of Israel, terrorist organizations that were fighting Israel, attacked Israel in international forums,” Dermer said in an interview with Fusion, an American TV station on Tuesday.

Cuba cut ties with Israel in 1973, just prior to the Yom Kippur war, in a bid by then-President Fidel Castro to lead the non-aligned nations bloc in the UN. Since then, Castro has repeatedly maligned Israel, comparing it the Nazi regime and accusing it of genocide in Gaza.