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Israel Withdraws its Ambassador for Venezuela

Caracas, Venezuela, Agosto 8, 2006—Israel withdrew its ambassador from Caracas yesterday in response to an identical move made by Venezuela towards Israel last week. On the same day, Venezuela sent a Boeing 707 jet full of aid to Lebanon to help alleviate the humanitarian crisis caused by the Israeli bombing.

The withdrawal of Israel’s ambassador was inevitable, “As an act of protest against the one-sided policy of the president of Venezuela and in light of his wild slurs against the state of Israel and in response to the recall of the Venezuelan charge d'affaires to his country, Foreign Minister Tsipi Livni decided to bring our ambassador in Venezuala back temporarily for consultations,” said Israeli Foreign Ministry Mark Regev.

With regards the one-sided policy Regev pointed to Venezuelan-Iranian relations. Regev said, "We have a problem with the leadership in Caracas that hugs the Iranian president who calls for the annihilation of Israel," he said.

All this came after Chávez continued his blunt criticism of Israeli actions in Lebanon and Palestine on his weekly television show Aló Presidente. Again comparing their actions against Lebanon with Hitler's war tactics, he said that, “Israel has gone mad”.

Today, in response to Israel's announcement, Chavez said that Venezuela and Israel would probably break diplomatic relations over Israel's bombardment of Lebanon. "I have no interest in maintaining diplomatic relations ... with a state like Israel, which every day increases its offensive and says they will not stop," said Chavez.

Kofi Annan yesterday, while not going quite so far as Chávez, did make a statement which, if confirmed as true, would make many see Venezuela’s decision to suspend diplomatic relations with Israel as justified. He said that the recent assault on Qana in southern Lebanon, where 28 civilians died should be seen, "in the broader context of what could be, based on preliminary information available to the United Nations ... a pattern of violations of international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law committed during the course of the current hostilities".

This is an all time low for Israel-Venezuela relations which have always been cordial despite Venezuela’s close links to the Arab world through OPEC. Recently, Venezuela and Israel were in negotiations for an arms deal where the Middle East country was to sell weaponry to Venezuela. It reportedly failed only after considerable US pressure on Israel.

The humanitarian aid sent by Venezuela to Lebanon will not only be food, drinking water and medicines but also doctors and paramedics. This is on top of a fund of private Venezuelan donors set up at the start of the conflict. The aid left in the same jet that has been bringing Latin American refugees that have fled Beirut.

National Assembly Delegation Visits Syria

In a separate development a delegation from the Venezuelan National Assembly visited the Syrian capital Damascus yesterday to meet with Palestinian groups in order to, “ support and identify as parliament members with the Lebanese and Palestinian peoples.”

The delegation was headed by Second Vice President of the Assembly Desiree Santos Amaral. In all they spoke with ten different Palestinian factions. Amaral condemned Israeli aggression and supported the Palestinian peoples “right to resist” the occupation of their land. She also expressed support for the withdrawal of Israel from the Syrian Golan Heights, which they have occupied illegally since 1967.

Published on Aug 8th 2006 at 11.12pm