Alternative actors in Latam: Israel

Naftali Bennett, primer ministro de Israel

Israel - 9M inhabitants and the world's 30th largest economy by GDP - maintains full diplomatic relations with all Latin American countries except Cuba, Bolivia and Venezuela. It has signed free trade agreements (FTAs) with Mexico (in force since 2000) and Colombia (since 2020). The FTA with Panama is its first in Central America.

Two years after the entry into force of the FTA, already excellent bilateral relations have been strengthened. Issues of benefit to Panama are being explored: energy, education, high tech, medical technologies, agriculture and water resources.

Panama's positioning as a hub and leader in digital banking is a business expansion opportunity for Israel. The Panamanian Jewish community, some 16K individuals, constitutes a strong presence in a country of only 4M.

AFP/ EMMANUEL DUNAND  -   El ministro de Asuntos Exteriores israelí, Yair Lapid
AFP/ EMMANUEL DUNAND - Israeli Foreign Minister, Yair Lapid

In 2007, Israel became the first non-Latin American country to sign an FTA with Mercosur, which came into force in 2011.

  • Israel is a country with a very high per capita income and a very high-profile consumer base. Mercosur, a platform for Israeli industry and technology.

They are two of the nine countries that in 2017 - the only ones in Latam - opposed the UN resolution condemning the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Guatemala moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018. Israel has donated vaccines, personnel protection equipment, respirators to hospitals, as well as agricultural recovery products to Guatemala.

  • In October, the Guatemala-Israel Parliamentary Friendship League supported the "Economy in Exchange for Security" initiative between Israel and Gaza, presented by foreign minister Yair Lapid. First and only support in Latam for the initiative.
  • Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández travelled to Jerusalem for the inauguration of the Embassy. He met with businessmen, academics, religious leaders and health authorities. With Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, he signed memoranda on agriculture, education, innovation and health, agreeing to deepen cooperation in high technology and cybernetics.

In Central America and Latin America in general, Israel occupies a privileged place in the evangelical imaginary; many currents feel devotion to the State of Israel.

AFP/MARVIN RECINOS - La Asamblea Legislativa de El Salvador aprobó una legislación que convierte a la criptodivisa Bitcoin en moneda de curso legal en el país, la primera nación en hacerlo
AFP/MARVIN RECINOS - El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele

A new era in relations with El Salvador has begun. For a year and a half Israel had been without an ambassador to this friendly country, whose consul in Geneva once saved the lives of thousands of Jews by issuing official Salvadoran documents in Nazi-occupied Europe.

  • In Mashav - the Israeli foreign ministry's education programme to train foreigners in medicine, agriculture and technology - Colombia is the Latin American country with the most students.

At Daniel Ortega's inauguration ceremony, the vice-president for economic affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mohsen Rezai, accused of being an intellectual participant in the bombing of the Argentinean Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) centre, was present.

  • Jonathan Peled, Director of the Israeli Foreign Ministry for Latin America, condemned the event, describing Rezai's presence as "an affront to the victims of the attack and to the norms of international law".

The Latin American vote was instrumental in Resolution 181 in 1947 for the establishment of Israel. Guatemala was the second country in the world to officially recognise it in 1948.

The two most serious cases of attacks against Israeli targets: in 1992 a suicide bombing of the embassy in Buenos Aires killed 29 people and in 1994, the AMIA bombing killed 85 people. Hezbollah and Iran were implicated in both.

PHOTO - El presidente de Argentina, Mauricio Macri, durante un acto de conmemoración del 25º aniversario de un atentado contra el centro comunitario judío de la Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA)
PHOTO - Argentina's former president, Mauricio Macri, during an event commemorating the 25th anniversary of an attack on the Jewish community centre of the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA).

Israeli startups raised a record $25.6 billion, 150% more than in 2020. More than 30 companies turned into "unicorns" (startups with valuation of more than $1,000M).

  • Israel is a world reference in technology and areas such as agriculture, water and food, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and medicine. It has the second largest number of startups in the world after the US. And the third largest number of companies listed on the NASDAQ.
  • The "IN in Israel Experience", created by Conexión Israel and the Cinman Institute, allows people from Latin America and Spain to get to know the companies, institutions and key figures in the success of the Israeli innovative ecosystem. The programme for next March includes visits to startups, public institutions, companies, networking spaces, a meeting with the Israel Innovation Authority, etc.

After reaching a peak of 500K in the 1960s, the Jewish population in Latam today is estimated at just over 300K. The largest is Argentina, with almost 200K (followed by Brazil, Mexico and Colombia). In turn, more than 120K Latin Americans live in Israel. According to figures from the Jewish Agency for Israel (Sojnut), the organisation designated to supervise and approve the migration process (Aliyah), in 2021, 924 Argentines emigrated to Israel (561 in 2020).

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