By Fernando Brancoli
The crisis between Israel and Latin American countries has reached a new juncture, reflecting the larger geopolitical tensions caused by the significant rise in civilian deaths and urban destruction due to Israeli bombardment of Gaza. On October 31, 2023, Bolivia severed diplomatic ties with Israel, condemning what it termed "crimes against humanity" due to Israeli military actions. This decision was explained by Bolivian Deputy Foreign Minister Freddy Mamani, who lambasted the "aggressive and disproportionate Israeli military offensive". Bolivian President Luis Arce expressed his rejection of the "war crimes" in Gaza, voicing support for international initiatives to ensure humanitarian aid in compliance with international law.
Bolivia's decision marks another instance in a history of diplomatic disengagements between the two nations. La Paz had previously cut diplomatic ties with Israel in 2009 under leftist President Evo Morales, also protesting Israel's actions in Gaza. The ties were briefly reestablished in 2020 under right-wing interim President Jeanine Anez, only to be broken again in 2023.
In a parallel development, both Chile and Colombia recalled their ambassadors from Israel for consultations following what they described as violations of international humanitarian law. The actions of these countries echo their disapproval of Israeli military operations and their impact on Palestinian civilians. Chile's stance was further amplified by its large Palestinian diaspora, which significantly influences its foreign policy towards Israel and Palestine. The country's history of Palestinian migration and the recent decision to establish an embassy in Palestine underline its supportive stance towards the Palestinian cause. Chilean president Gabriel Boric, transitioning from a prominent student leader to the presidency, has consistently upheld his progressive ideologies, as evinced through his historical critique of Israel. His advocacy extends to supporting boycotts against goods from Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine. However, the decision to recall the ambassador from Israel garnered support even from the conservative opposition, showcasing a national consensus on the situation in Gaza that transcends internal political divides.
Colombia's relations with Israel, deeply rooted in military and intelligence cooperation, have hit a rough patch following a contentious statement by Colombian President Gustavo Petro, who likened a remark by the Israeli Defense Minister to Nazi rhetoric. This led to Israel suspending defense material exports to Colombia. Historically, Colombia has been among the first countries to engage in arms deals with Israel, sharing intelligence and military technology over the years, underscoring the significance of this recent diplomatic rift.
The differing stances of Bolivia, Chile, and Colombia towards Israel encapsulate the multifaceted nature of international reactions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Bolivia's actions reflect a strong ideological opposition to Israel's military interventions in Gaza, aligning with a broader Latin American leftist tradition of solidarity with Palestine. Chile's substantial Palestinian diaspora significantly sways its diplomatic stance, exemplifying how overseas communities can influence foreign policy. In contrast, Colombia's diplomatic discord with Israel reveals the tension between long-standing military cooperation and diverging political ideologies amidst the escalating conflict. Each country's unique historical, political, and social contexts shape their respective responses to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, illustrating the complex interplay of domestic and international factors in the evolving diplomatic landscape.