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ECONOMY | 05-02-2024 18:55

Milei’s Jerusalem visit signals Argentina’s support of Israel

President Javier Milei chose Jerusalem as the destination of his first bilateral trip, underscoring his government’s willingness to bring Argentina closer to Israel.

President Javier Milei chose Jerusalem as the destination of his first bilateral trip, underscoring his government’s willingness to bring Argentina closer to Israel at the same time that he embarks on a personal journey toward Judaism.

Milei is expected to land in Tel Aviv on Tuesday afternoon and hold a bilateral meeting with President Isaac Herzog the same day, after paying a visit to the Wailing Wall. On Wednesday, he’ll be received by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other members of his Cabinet.

Milei’s clear pro-Israel stance, which includes plans to label Hamas a terrorist organisation, puts Argentina at odds with other Latin American countries that have criticised Netanyahu’s strategy to eradicate the group from Gaza.

Milei’s geopolitical plan, however, often comes intertwined with displays of his religious beliefs: after winning the presidency, he flew to New York to visit the tomb of orthodox rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson before having lunch with Bill Clinton. 

Milei is travelling with an Argentine rabbi he’s tapped to become his country’s ambassador to Israel, along with his sister and adviser, Karina, and Foreign Minister Diana Mondino. 

The president has said he intends to convert from Catholicism to Judaism, and in the process has warmed up to Jewish leaders in Argentina, which has the largest Jewish community in Latin America. Amid marathon talks with congress to push through his reform agenda, Milei set aside a day in January to speak at the country’s Holocaust Museum. He also counts Eduardo Elsztain, a real-estate titan, among his closest allies in the business community. 

After Israel, Milei will head to the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis, whom he often criticized as having undue influence in Argentine politics. Since the election, both men have taken a pragmatic turn and agreed to meet. In Rome, Milei will also meet Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. 

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by Patrick Gillespie, Bloomberg

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