Cuba–Israel relations

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Cuba-Israel relations
Map indicating locations of Cuba and Israel



Cuba–Israel refers to the current and historical relations between Cuba and Israel. Both nations have not had official diplomatic relations since 1973. Israel maintains an Interest Section in the Canadian embassy in Havana.[1]


Early relations[edit]

Cuban Ambassador Ricardo Wolf with Israeli President Yitzhak Ben-Zvi and Foreign Minister Golda Meir in Jerusalem, 1960

Since the establishment of Israel, relations between Cuba and Israel have been turbulent. In 1919, Cuba supported the idea of independence of the Jewish people and condemned the extermination of Jews by the Nazis in 1942.[2] On 29 November 1947, Cuba was the only country in the Americas to vote against the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine which led to the founding of Israel.[3] Despite the vote, Cuba recognized Israel and both nations established diplomatic relations in 1949.[4] In 1952, Israel opened an honorary consulate in Havana and upgraded the consulate to a diplomatic legation in 1954. Cuba opened a diplomatic office in Israel in 1957.[5]

In January 1959, Fidel Castro came into power in Cuba. In 1961, President Castro appointed Ricardo Wolf as ambassador to Israel.[5] During the 1960s, President Castro began to develop close alliances with Arab nations. After the Six-Day War in June 1967, Cuba and Romania were the only communist countries to not break diplomatic ties with Israel.[6] Between 1967–1970, Cuba sent military assistance to Egypt during the War of Attrition to help the nation regain the Sinai Peninsula which was occupied by Israeli troops after the Six-Day War.[5]

In September 1973, during a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement being held in Algeria, Cuba announced during the summit that they would break diplomatic relations with Israel.[6] In October 1973, Cuba assisted Egypt and Syria in the Yom Kippur War against Israel by sending troops and equipment to Syria.[7] After the war, relations between Cuba and Israel were non-existent. Israel, as an ally of the United States, was the only other nation since 1992 to vote for the embargo against Cuba.[5]

Post 1991[edit]

In December 1991, the Dissolution of the Soviet Union occurred which severely affected the Cuban economy. Cuba’s foreign policy changed dramatically with the nation no longer sending military aid and troops to other nations and stopped getting involved in foreign conflicts. In 1992, Israeli companies began operating in Cuba led by former Israeli Minister Raffi Eitan.[8][1] Israeli tourists also started to visit the island nation.

In 1994, during the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as President of South Africa, President Castro met with Israeli President Ezer Weizman.[9] Between 1995-1999, Castro allowed 400 Cuban Jews to immigrate to Israel with the assistance of the Canadian government known as Operation Cigar.[10] In 1996, during the funeral of former French President François Mitterrand, President Castro meet and spoke with Israeli Minister Shimon Peres.[5] In 2000, President Castro and Prime Minister Ehud Barak met at the Millennium Summit in New York.[5]

In September 2010, while speaking with American journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, Fidel Castro announced that he believed that Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish State and denounced holocaust deniers.[11] Castro also expressed concern with regards to Iran’s nuclear ambition. After Castro’s remarks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Castro for his statements.[5] There has been talk of re-establishment of diplomatic relations between both nations, however, no major steps have been taken.[12]

See also[edit]