(JNS.org) Israel’s Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev has embarked on a private visit to Cuba, Haaretz reported Tuesday.
Regev’s visit to the country—which has no diplomatic ties with Israel—marks the first such visit by a sitting Israeli minister to Havana since 1973, according to senior Israeli officials.
The minister had no official meetings scheduled during her stay, and the Israeli cabinet secretariat was notified of the trip ahead of time in accordance with official procedure, Regev’s office stated. Yet Israel’s Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were reportedly not informed about the trip.
While the communist regime of Fidel Castro initially had a warm relationship with Israel shortly after the Cuban Revolution in 1959, Cuba unilaterally cut ties with the Jewish state in 1973 as Castro sought to increase relations with third-world countries in the Non-Aligned Movement, including Arab nations opposed to Israel’s existence.
Cuba’s harsh stance on Israel in international forums, its ties with Iran and Venezuela, and the U.S. embargo on Cuba also led to the deterioration of the Cuban-Israeli diplomatic relationship. Nevertheless, Israelis often visit Cuba and have contact with the country’s small Jewish community.
In 2014, Israel began exploring the future of its relationship with Cuba following the Obama administration’s announcement of restored diplomatic ties with the Caribbean country. But Israeli rapprochement with Cuba may now be in question due to the Trump administration’s more rigid approach to the Communist regime in Havana.