Former Israeli Envoy's Diplomatic Gaffe on Buenos Aires Bombing

Buenos Aires is furious after former ambassador Itzhak Aviran said Israel 'took care' of those responsible for the 1994 bombing in the Argentinian capital.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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They say that a rock tossed by a single fool into a well cannot be retrieved even by a hundred sages. But over the weekend, more than a few diplomats with the Foreign Ministry attempted to salvage the rock tossed by the former ambassador to Argentina, Itzhak Aviran.

Argentina's Jewish news agency published an interview on Friday with Aviran, in which he spoke about the attacks against the Israel embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 and against the city's Jewish community building (AMIA) in 1994. Israel has placed the blamed on both bombings with Iran and Hezbollah.

Aviran, who served as ambassador at the time of the attacks but retired 15 years ago, said that "a majority of those responsible for the act (the 1994 bombing) are no longer alive, and we took care of this on our own."

Aviran hinted, it seems, at the assassination of Hezbollah's chief of operations Imad Mughniyah in 2008, who was suspected of involvement in planning and carrying out the attacks.

Even though Israel never claimed responsibility for Mughniyah's assassination, Hezbollah has pointed its finger at Israel and threatened revenge.

The comments by the retired ambassador stirred up a storm in Argentina. Alberto Nisman, the Argentinian special prosecutor of the case of the 1994 bombing, hastened to respond and demanded Aviran be summoned for investigation.

"I was very surprised to hear these things," Nisman said in an interview with a local television station. "We would like to know how he knows these things, who are these people and what evidence he has in his possession."

Argentinian Foreign Minister Hector Timerman angrily charged Israel with concealing information about the identity of the attack's perpetrators from Argentina's justice system.

"Israel prevented the gathering of new evidence that could shed light on the affair," he said. "If there had been cooperation, as mandated by international agreements, the perpetrators may have now been serving out their sentence."

Timerman said he plans to summon Israeli ambassador in Buenos Aires Dorit Shavit to reprimand her and demand explanation for Aviran's remarks. He added that Avrian's comments explain why Israel opposes the agreement signed a year ago between Iran and Argentina for a joint investigation of the attacks.

The Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office tried at first to disregard Aviran's interview, hoping the whole affair would blow over. Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor decided on a short response on Friday, calling Aviran's words "complete nonsense."

However on Saturday, Jerusalem was forced into a corner and compelled to give a sharp official response that would distance itself from the retired ambassador. The following response was published in Hebrew, Spanish and English and was distributed to international media.

"The statements by former ambassador Aviran, who has been in retirement for some 15 years, are completely disconnected from reality. These remarks, made on no authority nor knowledge, are pure fantasy and do not reflect in any way events or facts such as he pretends to depict. Israel continues to cooperate in full transparency with Argentina in investigating the bombings which took place in Buenos Aires against the Embassy of Israel (1992) and the AMIA Jewish Community Center (1994)." 

Rescue workers searching through the rubble of the Buenos Aires Jewish Community center after a deadly bombing on July 18, 1994. Credit: AP