CARACAS (JTA) — Venezuela’s president said he had no plans to resume ties with Israel in the wake of its military incursion in Gaza.
Hugo Chavez said in an interview Sunday with Al Jazeera that he would not consider resuming diplomatic relations until the Jewish state reconsiders its “genocidal attitude.”
Chavez made his comments in Doha, Qatar, where he is scheduled to attend the second Summit of Arab-South American countries beginning Tuesday. The conference is running in parallel with the Arab League summit currently meeting in the Qatari capital.
Chavez expelled the Israeli delegation in January to protest its military operation in Gaza.
In the same interview, Chavez reaffirmed his close relationship with Iran, referring to the nation and its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as Venezuela’s best friend. Ahmadinejad has called for Israel to be “wiped off the map.”
“The friendship with Iran has been built up from zero, since at the beginning of our revolution there was an absolute lack of knowledge … of the great development of the Iranian nation,” Chavez said.
Both countries are founding members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and have called for a unified “south-south” axis to create a political counterweight to what they call U.S.-backed imperialism.
While it is not unusual that the two important oil producers have bilateral relations, Chavez has broken the historical balance Venezuela previously maintained in its relationship with Israel and the Middle East.
The increasingly close ties between Chavez and Ahmadinejad have been especially worrisome to members of the local Jewish community in light of rising instances of anti-Semitism since Chavez came to power a decade ago.
Members of the Jewish community here say public outbursts of anti-Semitism, once rare in Venezuela, have become more common as Chavez has adopted a vehemently critical tone against Israel’s military operations, beginning with its war with Hezbollah in 2006.