TEL AVIV (Dec. 12)
Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir left on a 12-day official visit to Argentina and Uruguay today in face of criticism from many quarters in Israel over the Likud government’s apparent friendship with rightwing dictatorial regimes.
Shamir’s reply was that Israel is not free to choose its friends according to the nature of their internal politics. He noted that he was invited to Argentina by President Renaldo Bignonone and to Uruguay by President Gregorio Alvarez to meet with them and their foreign ministers. He pointed out that he has visited a number of Latin American states in the past, including Costa Rica, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic with regimes that vary from democratic to authoritarian.
ISSUE OF DISAPPEARED JEWS IN ARGENTINA
The Foreign Minister stressed that he would not be discussing arms sales to Argentina and Uruguay since that was outside his province. But he promised that in Argentina he would try to find out what happened to the many Jews who have disappeared after police and security forces arrests in recent years.
He admitted that this was a very delicate subject and he preferred not to expand on it before his departure. The Labor Party has issued a statement criticizing Shamir’s trip to Argentina. He pointed out that the military junta in Buenos Aires was responsible for the disappearance of thousands of Argentine citizens, including hundreds of Jews suspected of dissent.
“I am aware of this problem and I will do my best,” Shamir said. He told reporters at Ben Gurion Airport that he was also aware of the growing importance of Latin America in world politics and the world economy.
According to some reports here, the Jewish community in Argentina had asked Shamir to reconsider his visit to their country because of the current tensions there. Shamir said he planned to spend time with local Jewish communities wherever he goes and would also preside over a meeting of Israeli Ambassadors in the region.