Argentina Blasts Israel for Protesting Deal With Iran on 1994 Bombing

Buenos Aires issues harsh statement stressing that Israel has no right to interfere in the decision of Argentina and Iran to set up a joint committee to probe the 1994 bombing of Jewish center.

Buenos Aires issued on Tuesday a harsh statement in response to Israel's protest over the agreement signed between Argentina and Iran to establish a joint committee to investigate the 1994 bombing against a Jewish target in Buenos Aires. The statement stressed that Israel has no right to interfere in the process.

On Monday, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon announced that the Argentinian ambassador to Israel would be summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem for an official reprimand over his country's decision to establish a "truth commission" with Iran to investigate the 1994 terror bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that left 85 people dead and more than 300 others wounded.

The Foreign Ministry also instructed Israel's Ambassador to Argentina, Dorit Shavit, to request an urgent meeting with Argentinean Foreign Minister Hector Timerman in order to register Israel’s vehement protest and to demand an explanation about the commission.

The statement, issued by Argentina's Foreign Ministry, said the attack “did not involve any Israeli citizen. The victims were mostly Argentines … The summons of Argentina’s ambassador [to Israel] to provide explanations for a sovereign decision by Argentina is an improper act that we reject vigorously. That goes against the relations of friendship between Israel and Argentina.”

Senior Foreign Ministry officials in Jerusalem responded with rage to the statement. “The attack on the Jewish community center and its perpetrators are linked to the attack on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires two years earlier,” said a senior Foreign Ministry official. “Therefore Israel has every right to demand explanations from the Argentines about the agreement they signed with Iran.”

In 2006, after years of foot-dragging, Argentinian prosecutors charged Iran and Hezbollah over the car bombing of the Israeli-Argentine Mutual Association building, but the case was not pursued. Most of the victims in the attack were Jewish.

"Argentina's move did more than to evoke shock and concern in Israel,” Ayalon told Haaretz on Monday. “It is clear to all that the Iranians and their Hezbollah minions were involved in the attack," Ayalon said, adding that holding a joint investigation of the incident with Tehran was "like inviting the murderer to participate in the murder investigation. This agreement confers legitimacy on the terrorist government in Iran.”

Ayalon added that he is attending the Munich Security Conference this weekend, where he planned to discuss the issue with various world figures.

The agreement to create the joint commission was announced on Sunday by Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. The committee is to include international jurists chosen by representatives from both Argentina and Iran. Jurists from either country will be excluded.

Commission members are said to be given free access to all of the figures mentioned in all past investigations of the bombing carried out in both Argentina and Iran.

Israel first heard about the negotiations between Argentina and Iran over establishing the commission in October. Despite repeated requests, Buenos Aires did not brief Jerusalem on the progress of the talks. In meetings with representatives of Argentina's Jewish community in recent weeks Timerman, who is Jewish, declined to give details about the talks.