Cuba’s Break with Israel Seen As Prelude to Moves by Other Countries in Latin America

An Israeli journalist regarded as an authority on Cuba expressed fear today that Premier Fidel Castro’s diplomatic break with Israel, announced in Algiers Sunday, may be the prelude to similar action by other Latin American states. Simcha Flapan, editor of “New Outlook,” a political magazine, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that Castro’s high standing with many Latin American states may have been the reason why he was made the target of Arab pressure to break with Israel at the current non-aligned summit meeting in Algiers.

Flapan, who had close personal contacts with Cuban leaders during the 1960s, noted that Cuba was the only Communist country-that recognized the legitimacy of the Zionist movement after the Six-Day War, permitted the existence of Zionist organizations on its soil and in fact facilitated aliya activities and the work of shlichim (Zionist emissaries) from Israel.

Flapan recalled that the kibbutz movement had developed relations of its own with Cuba in 1962. He himself signed an agreement on behalf of the kibbutz movement with the Cuban Ministry of Agriculture for the exchange of kibbutz members and Cuban agriculture-students. The exchange was maintained for several years.

Flapan said that after the Six-Day War, Cuba’s position was complicated by its interest in maintaining good relations with the Arab world, especially in the area of trade. It also had to reconcile its support of national liberation movements in Africa, Asian and Latin American countries including the Palestinians, with its continuing relations with Israel. Nevertheless, Cuba maintained cordial relations with Israel.

According to Flapan, Israel was the scapegoat that Castro had to sacrifice in order to retain his standing among the non-aligned nations. Libyan President Muammar Qaddafi attacked Castro for his pro-Soviet attitude and challenged him to prove that Cuba was indeed unaligned. As proof, he decided to rupture relations with Israel, Flapan said.

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