Petro’s Stance Towards Israel And The War in Gaza Opens a Diplomatic Crisis

Specialists analyze Petro's position towards Israel and try to foresee the possible consequences of his statements .

Gustavo Petro

Photo: Gustavo Petro

Jaime Ortega Carrascal | EFE

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Leer en español: La postura de Petro frente a Israel y la guerra en Gaza abre una crisis diplomática

The war between Israel and the Palestinian militias in Gaza has caused an impact in Colombia, thousands of kilometers away, due to the verbal confrontation between President Gustavo Petro and the Israeli Government, a crisis that has shaken relations between the two countries. .

Since the Hamas attack on October 7, and Israel's reaction, with bombings of the Gaza Strip, Petro turned X (formerly Twitter) into a platform from which he daily criticizes the Israeli State, accusing it of "genocide" and " barbarism", and even comparing it with the Nazis, and Gaza with the Auschwitz concentration camp, but without explicitly condemning the terrorism of the Palestinian group.

Israel responded on Sunday to Petro's "hostile and anti-Semitic statements" with the announcement of the suspension "of security exports to Colombia", a country with which until now it had had an excellent political and commercial relationship and to which it supplies military material. such as airplanes, helicopters, guns, weapon parts and accessories, and satellite technology equipment , among others.

Immediately, the president threatened: "If we have to suspend foreign relations with Israel, we will suspend them," and this Monday his chancellor went further by urging the Israeli ambassador, Gali Dagan, to "at least apologize and leave" the country, after accuse him of "insane nonsense."

Two failures in foreign policy

For political analyst Sandra Borda, a professor at the University of the Andes, Petro's handling of the relationship with Israel is "very regrettable" and shows that the Government has "two big problems": the loss of institutionality and the ignorance of international humanitarian law by condemning Israel's violence but not Hamas's terrorism.

"The president clearly has more than enough chancellor and the Foreign Ministry, what we have seen on social networks are his personal opinions, he is giving his opinion like Gustavo Petro and not like the president of Colombia who has to adopt positions based on the national interest and finding the right solutions." better ways to prevent the civilian population from suffering in this conflict," Borda told EFE.

Regarding the second problem, Borda believes that, "Colombia being a country that has always adopted positions in favor of compliance with United Nations resolutions and international humanitarian law, this time the president dedicated himself to questioning the behavior of one of the parties in conflict without saying that Hamas had also committed crimes against humanity against the civilian population. We had never adopted a position of that nature ."

This opinion is shared by different sectors of Colombian society who consider that in the management of foreign relations the president must act with prudence and equanimity.

Among them is senator and former chief peace negotiator Humberto de la Calle, who sees "a biased, deliberately unilateral and unsustainable treatment" by Petro in condemning Israel's attacks in Gaza and omitting "the terrorist attack against Israel, also including civil population".

Another view is held by analyst Mauricio Jaramillo Jassir, a professor at the University of Rosario, who told EFE that "what Petro said is consistent with the historical position of progressivism in Colombia regarding the Palestinian cause (…) and with the urgency of the moment" because "the Government understands that a genocide is being committed and that is why it reacts in an emergency.

However, he considers "that the tone should be corrected, there should be a more conciliatory tone, especially with the Jewish world in Colombia that feels affected by these statements and because they fear, with just cause, that there will be subsequent manifestations of anti-Semitism."

Read also: What Diplomatic Implications Do Gustavo Petro's Statements Have About Israel And Hamas?

Political storm

Petro, for his part, returned to the charge today and called "ignorant" those who accuse him of "being anti-Semitic and supporting Hamas," while pointing out "the oligarchy and the press that attacks me" for having been on Hitler's side.

The storm, far from subsiding, worsens with statements such as that of Foreign Minister Leyva, suggesting that the Israeli ambassador leave the country, to which Borda stated that "the Government must clarify whether it is formally expelling the Israeli Ambassador from Colombia or if this is part of the delirium that the president started."

Jaramillo Jassir considers that "it is very premature to know if there will finally be a break" in relations with Israel and hopes that this does not happen because "at this moment both Israel and Colombia have better things to occupy themselves with" and "it is not convenient for them to break relations." .

Israel is an important trading partner of Colombia, to which in 2021 it exported $115 million not only in security products, now suspended, but also in transmission equipment, pesticides, medical instruments, textiles, polymers and machinery for different sectors.

Colombia, for its part, exported 325 million dollars, represented mainly in charcoal briquettes, coffee and flowers.

The fear of some specialists, both in the country and abroad, is that the crisis with Israel will end up having repercussions on the United States and will also harm Colombia's relationship with Washington.

"Petro's scandalous statement towards Israel and his inability to criticize the Hamas terrorist attack will further deepen the mistrust between the Biden administration and the Colombian president," said Michael Shifter, former president of the Inter-American Dialogue, in X, who pointed out that the current situation "it will make it even more difficult to see Colombia under Petro as a serious partner."

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