Colombian Foreign Minister Alvaro Leyva ordered Israeli Ambassador Gali Dagan out of the country on Monday. The prior day, Israel halted defense exports to the country following Colombian President Gustavo Petro’s comparison of the Israeli military to Nazis in the wake of the Hamas attacks on Oct. 7.
Gustavo’s threat to break off diplomatic relations with Israel “is both unfortunate and potentially dangerous” and risks further inflaming tensions, stated the American Jewish Committee. The AJC noted that the Colombian president liked the IDF to Nazis, said Gaza had been turned into a concentration camp and refused to condemn Hamas’s brutal attack on Israel, which killed more than 1,400 Israelis.
“Antisemitic activity typically rises when violence flares up in the Middle East. The president’s antisemitic rhetoric can put Colombia’s Jews in danger at a time when their safety should be of paramount concern,” per the AJC. “We urge President Petro to take a hard look at how much Colombia and Israel have benefited from seven decades of warm relations and maintain a constructive dialogue on both nations’ shared interests and values.”
On Sunday, the Israeli Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem summoned Colombian Ambassador Margarita Manjarrez for a dressing down in the wake of Petro’s comments.
“At the meeting, it was made clear to the ambassador that her president’s statements were received in Israel with shock given Hamas’s barbaric terrorist attack,” per Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Haiat.
At least 1,400 Israelis were killed and 3,500 wounded in the worst assault on Israel in a half-century.
A former member of the M19 armed guerilla movement and Colombia’s first left-wing president in recent history, Petro has tweeted and retweeted a series of pro-Palestinian messages on his account on X.
Among his tweets, he said the Gaza Strip is being “converted into a concentration camp.”
“Israel condemns the president’s statements, which constitute support for the horrific acts of Hamas terrorists, inflame antisemitism, harm representatives of the State of Israel and threaten the safety of the Jewish,” Haiat said.
The Israeli measure against Bogota was “a first step” as bilateral relations between the countries headed into a full-blown crisis following the inflammatory remarks.
Responding to Israel’s decision, the unapologetic Colombian president wrote: “If we have to suspend foreign relations with Israel, we suspend them. We do not support genocides.”
“Hitler will be defeated,” he added.
Meanwhile, a Spanish Cabinet minister said Israel was carrying out a “planned genocide” against the Palestinians.
Acting Minister of Social Rights and Podemos Party leader Ione Belarra on Saturday said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should be brought to trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, and called on people to take to the streets against Israel.