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Argentine Leader Meets with Jews, Plans Visit to Israel Next Year

September 27, 1989
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Argentine President Carlos Saul Menem, meeting Tuesday morning with 14 members of the American Jewish community, pledged his determination to maintain friendly relations with the Jewish community, both at home and throughout the world.

He also announced he would be traveling to Israel early next year, possibly in January or February, and would like very much to be of help in facilitating the Middle East peace process.

Reports of Menem’s comments came from Jewish leaders who attended the breakfast meeting at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

They included officials of the World Jewish Congress, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, American Jewish Committee and Jewish Community Relations Council of New York.

Menem hosted the meeting to reciprocate a visit WJC President Edgar Bronfman made to Buenos Aires in July, during which the two met.

The Argentine president met later in the day for 25 minutes with Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Arens. The foreign minister pledged Israel’s help in developing Argentine agriculture.

Arens, who used an interpreter to converse with Menem, told the president that there are a lot of Argentine Jews in Israel. He said Menem would find a lot of friends when he visits the Jewish state and will not need a translator.

Menem told Arens that the Israeli people should see the people of Argentina “as friends and, even more than that, as brothers who want to bring peace between Arabs and Jews.”


The Argentine president has been working to strengthen his ties to the Jewish community in Argentina, which is believed to number around 225,000. In doing so, Menem must surmount a legacy of anti-Semitism perpetrated by his party, the Peronists, during their earlier reign of power.

He has already begun to do so. Menem’s three-month-old administration has already appointed two Jews to top posts.

One is Fernando Gelbard, the new ambassador to France. Gelbard is the son of former Finance Minister Jose Gelbard. The other is Diego Guelar, appointed ambassador to the European Community in Brussels.

Menem, who is of Syrian parentage, has appointed his brother, Eduardo, to be the new ambassador to Damascus. The president told the Jewish leaders he would instruct his brother to intercede on behalf of the Jews of Syria, who are reportedly persecuted and barred from emigrating.

Menem told the U.S. Jewish leaders that his trip to Israel would fulfill a promise made by his predecessor, Raul Alfonsin, who never visited Israel despite his warm ties with the Jewish state.

The president said he would seek to advance the Middle East peace process while in Israel.

Menem, who came to New York to address the United Nations General Assembly on Monday, devoted part of his speech to the Middle East.

He said he favored an international conference, within the framework of the United Nations, in order to bring peace to the region. Such a conference, he said, would give solid international guarantees to a negotiated agreement.

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