In a landmark decision for Uruguay, the South American country today presented its diplomatic presence in the Israeli capital of Jerusalem.
Ever since the establishment of Israel on 29 November 1947, Uruguay has been a staunch supporter of Israel. Its vote at the United Nations helped to establish global recognition of the Jewish country. In those early days, Yitzack Navon led a diplomatic mission to Uruguay. He later became an Israeli prime minister further cementing the bond between the two nations. Nearly four decades later the Uruguayan’s reciprocated diplomatic initiatives at the highest level when its then president Julio Maria Sanguinetti, was the first head of state to make an official visit to Israel.
A rocky road to peaceful relations
However the road to stable relations between the countries hasn’t always been so smooth. In September 2020, allegations were made in the United Nations against Israel’s treatment of women’s civil rights. It led to internal division within Uruguay, where the charges had been made within the government. The issue was later resolved in Israel’s favor. The incident does underline the fact that opposition to Israel still exists within government elements of Uruguay.
Israeli support for Uruguay
In April 2016, heavy rain resulted in devastating floods. Uruguay’s Emergency Authority were also dealing with tornados ripping through the country. More than 10,000 people were displaced from their homes, while many were drowned or missing during the catastrophe. Israel was one of the first countries to step in and offer practical assistance, a fact that didn’t go unnoticed by the people of Uruguay affected by those natural disasters. Accordingly, such assistance helped pave the way for factions of the population in support of their country’s bonds with Israel.
Return of Uruguay’s embassy to Jerusalem
Uruguay had an embassy in Israel’s capital city of Jerusalem between 1954 until 1980. Due to external pressure the government based at Montevideo followed a path also adopted by Venezuela to close its presence in Jerusalem. Uruguay stated it was due to concerns about the religious well being of Jerusalems three main monotheistic religions – Judaism, Islam and Christianity. While reference was made to security considerations, it was generally believed in diplomatic and intelligence circles to have been initiated by political sources wanting to weaken Israel’s ties with its friends. Iran, with its declared interests against Israel, was one such nation that was involved in political intrigue in Uruguay, which resulted in a diplomatic fall out. After abandoning its Jerusalem embassy, Uruguay established its ambassadorial presence in the Israeli town of Hertzliyah, north of Tel Aviv where most countries trying to maintain a diplomatic balance between having a diplomatic presence in Israel, but not in its disputed capital in Jerusalem. Maybe, in moving to Hetzliyah the Uruguayans were making it known that while moving out of Jerusalem, they were not becoming entrenched in the political machinations that declared Tel Aviv as being the accepted capital of Israel, rather than Jerusalem?
Todays news is limited to Uruguay establishing a diplomatic office in Jerusalem. They spoke of increasing business ties with Israel, in particular with its innovative high tech industry. However, it also officially declared its intention to move its embassy back to Jerusalem, which is welcome news for both countries.