Netanyahu Embarks on First South America Visit by Israeli Prime Minister

The 10-day trip includes meetings with leaders from Argentina, Paraguay, Colombia, Mexico and finally a stop at the UN General Assembly

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting, Jerusalem, September 10, 2017.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting, Jerusalem, September 10, 2017. RONEN ZVULUN/AFP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu left Sunday evening for a 10-day trip to three Latin American countries and the UN General Assembly meeting in New York. The trip marks the first time that an Israeli prime minister has visited South America.

Netanyahu will be departing just as the police investigations against him intensify and two days after the attorney general announced plans to charge the prime minister’s wife, Sara, with fraud.

"We are leaving now on a historic visit," Netanyahu said as he departed. "This is the first time a sitting prime minister is going on a visit to South and Central America." Netanyahu added that he spoke to the Mexican president and offered aid following the earthquake.

"From Mexico I will leave for the U.S. to speak at the UN General Assembly and there I will also meet my friend President Donald Trump." Netanyahu expressed hope for the safety of U.S. citizens in the path of Hurricane Irma: "This storm too shall pass, and every Israeli citizen is praying for the safety of the citizens of the United States of America."

Sara Netanyahu spoke for the first time about the indictment against her, thanking "the thousands, thousands of Israeli citizens and people all over the world who support me and encourage me."

"On good days and on worse days, your help and support give me strength to keep doing the real things I do for all those who need the help, which I try to offer as much as I can."

On Monday Netanyahu will land in Buenos Aires, where he will meet with Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri. The visit signals a significant change in relations between the two countries that has been underway since Macri replaced Cristina de Kirchner, who maintained a cold policy toward Israel, while tightening relations with Iran.

Netanyahu and Macri are expected to sign a series of cooperative agreements in the realms of domestic security, customs, social insurance and Holocaust archives.

While in Buenos Aires Netanyahu will attend a ceremony at the square of the Israeli Embassy, where a terror bombing killed 29 people in 1992. That event will be attended by relatives of the diplomats who were killed in the attack. Netanyahu will also visit the Association Mutual Israelita Argentina building, which was attacked in 1994, killing 85 people, and where he will meet relatives of the casualties. Both attacks were committed by Iranian intelligence and Hezbollah.

During his visit to Buenos Aires, Netanyahu is also slated to meet Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes, who will come to Argentina especially for the meeting. Several Netanyahu associates, some of whom served as his advisers over the years, have been advising Cartes since he assumed his post in 2013. This helped the two countries develop closer ties, leading Israel to open an embassy in Asuncion, the Paraguayan capital.

From Argentina Netanyahu will continue on Wednesday for a short visit to Bogota, where he will meet Colombian President Manuel Santos. During the visit the two will sign agreements in the fields of science and tourism. After only a few hours in the Colombian capital, Netanyahu will fly to Mexico City, where on Thursday he will meet Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. The two will sign agreements on space, aviation and communications.

On Friday morning Netanyahu will fly to New York to prepare for his address to the General Assembly next Tuesday. While in New York the premier is expected to meet U.S. President Donald Trump and other world leaders who will be in town at that time.