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Israeli FM meets Argentina’s incoming president Milei

Javier Milei said he will work to declare Hamas a terrorist organization.

Argentina’s newly elected President Javier Milei (left) with Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen in Buenos Aires, Dec. 9, 2023. Photo by Andrew Kramanczewski/MFA.
Argentina’s newly elected President Javier Milei (left) with Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen in Buenos Aires, Dec. 9, 2023. Photo by Andrew Kramanczewski/MFA.

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen met with incoming Argentine President Javier Milei in Buenos Aires on Saturday. Cohen brought with him family members of hostages held by Hamas, including relatives of the Bibas family, who are Argentine citizens.

Cohen congratulated Milei on his official entry into office, which took place on Sunday, and thanked him for his intention to move the Argentine embassy to Jerusalem. Cohen invited Milei to inaugurate it as soon as possible.

The two men discussed deepening relations between the countries, the expansion of trade and the economic outlook.

Milei told Cohen that he will work to declare Hamas a terrorist organization.

“I want to emphasize our complete solidarity with the people of Israel following the terrorist acts committed by the terrorist organization Hamas. We condemn them sharply and clearly. I support Israel’s full right to defend itself against those terrorist attacks,” Milei said.

He met with the families of the hostages and called for the immediate and unconditional release of all the abductees from Gaza.

With Cohen and the families of hostages, Milei participated on Sunday night in the lighting of the candles marking the third night of Chanukah. He wore the dog-tag necklace that has become popular calling for the release of the Israelis captive in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen lights a menorah on the third night of Chanukah with Argentina’s newly-elected President Javier Milei (center) in Buenos Aires, Dec. 9, 2023. Photo by Andrew Kramanczewski/MFA.

Milei, an iconoclastic outsider who entered politics in 2020 vowing to “blow up” the system, won by 56% to 44% against his rival, Peronist Economy Minister Sergio Massa.

Milei has made no secret of his philo-semitism, which appears to have made little difference with the Argentinian electorate, despite its being 92% Catholic. (Jews make up less than 1% of the population.)

He told La Nacion, “I don’t go to church. I go to synagogue. I don’t follow a priest. I follow my rabbi. I learn Torah. I’m known internationally as a friend of Israel. And as someone who learns Torah, I’m almost Jewish. I’m just missing the ‘blood covenant.’”

He took the stage at his rock concert-like election rallies to the sound of a shofar. At one rally in August, an image of a Jew dressed in a tallit prayer shawl was projected onto a giant screen as the shofar sounded.

Milei studies Jewish issues with Rabbi Shimon Axel Wahnish, whom he calls his “spiritual mentor.” Wahnish leads ACILBA, an Argentine-Moroccan Jewish community based in Buenos Aires.

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