Venezuela voted in favor of Israeli membership in the United Nations in 1949, and established diplomatic ties.
Though relations between the two countries were traditionally strong, they have soured considerably under the presidency of Hugo Chavez, in relating to Chávez's convictions regarding the 2006 Lebanon War, and partly due to Chávez's foreign policy relating to Iran and Israel's political opposition to it. Chavez also positioned himself on the world stage as opposed to American foreign policy — the USA and Israel are partners in defense and international relations, specifically relating to the Middle East. In the wake of the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict, Venezuela broke all diplomatic ties with Israel, condemning its actions. On April 27, 2009, Venezuelan foreign minister Nicolas Maduro met with Palestinian National Authority foreign affairs minister Riyad al-Maliki in Caracas, where formal diplomatic relations were established.
Venezuela's first representative in Israel, Dr. Romulo Araujo, arrived in 1959/60 and was based in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. A year later, the mission was located in the Katamon neighborhood at 28 Rachel Imenu, where it stayed until 1980. In 1962 ties were upgraded, so that full ambassadors were exchanged. From 1960-64 Vincente Gerbasi, a poet, served as the Venezuelan representative and ambassador. He was replaced by Pedro Abreu, and in 1969/70 Napoleon Gimenez took over. In 1980, when Venezuela and many other nations chose to move their embassies outside of Jerusalem, Luis La Corte was the ambassador. In 1962, Gerbasi presented an Arab village with a tractor from Venezuela. During the Six-Day War many Venezuelan Jews went to Israel to fight for Israel.
When the United Nations passed General Assembly Resolution 3379 on November 10, 1975, "determin[ing] that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination", Venezuela abstained. The resolution was later revoked.
Milos Alcalay served as Venezuela's Ambassador to Israel from 1992 to 1995. Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres visited Caracas in January 1995, during the second Caldera administration, to "cement ties with friendly countries, and to deepen cooperation in areas of mutual benefit". Venezuela's Foreign Minister noted that "The reception that was given for Foreign Minister Peres was unprecedented."
In 2005, the Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee reported "an active Israeli embassy in Caracas and modest but growing bilateral trade."
2005 F-16 deal
In 2005, Israel had an agreement with Venezuela to service and upgrade its U.S.-built F-16 fighter jets, but the Sharon administration angered the U.S. State Department when it sold aerial drones to China. In October 2005, the State Department prevented the Israeli-Venezuelan F-16 deal by refusing to grant export licensing approval to the Israeli government. JINSA reported that the State Department "request[ed]" the Israeli government end all military contracts with Venezuela that involved U.S.-derived technology and refrain from future sales of Israeli military technology to Venezuela.
2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict
In response to the Israeli airstrike of Qana, on July 31, Vice President José Vicente Rangel said, "This murder of dozens of women and children has no justification whatsoever." The UN and other powerful nations shared blame for the attack because they had responded to Israel's military campaign in Palestine and Lebanon with "silence and omissions. Venezuela has never had any anti-Jewish attitudes, recognizes the existence of Israel as a state, welcomes the Jewish community and guarantees its total respect."
Al Jazeera's Dima Khatib, reported that Chávez was the first head of state to harshly condemn Israel over the Israeli-Lebanon conflict, even before any Arab or Muslim country. On August 3, 2006 Chávez ordered the Venezuelan charge d'affaires to Israel to return from Tel Aviv to Caracas, protesting the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict. According to The Miami Herald, two days later, on his Sunday radio program, "Aló Presidente" ("Hello President"), Chávez accused Israel of "going mad and inflicting on the people of Palestine and Lebanon the same thing they have criticized, and with reason: the Holocaust. But this is a new Holocaust" with the help of the United States, which he described as a terrorist country. He went on to say that the United States refuses "to allow the [U.N.] Security Council to make a decision to halt the genocide Israel is committing against the Palestinian and Lebanese people". The Israeli government responded by recalling the Israeli ambassador to Venezuela. Chávez went on to repeat the comparison with the Holocaust several days later.
In the Arab world Chávez's actions and comments saw widespread praise, with Al-Ahram Weekly commenting that Chávez had "emerged as the most popular leader within the Arab world". According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Chávez "is pursuing closer strategic relations with Arab countries and Iran, and is emerging as a key supporter of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Although it's not unusual for OPEC members to maintain relations, Carlos Romero, a political scientist at the Universidad Central de Venezuela, says that 'since the foundation of Israel, Venezuela has maintained equilibrium between its interests in Israel and Arab countries. Chavez has broken this'."
Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said on August 13, 2006, that Venezuela would not endorse an OPEC oil embargo in response to the Middle East crisis, but did say, "What we have been warning and denouncing over the past two years is the permanent aggression of U.S. foreign policy toward OPEC producers" which continue to "pressure" the oil market. Ramirez attributed record high oil prices to U.S. "policy of permanent aggression toward Venezuela, Iran" and "countries in the Persian Gulf."
On August 25, 2006, Reuters reported that Chávez had called for Israeli leaders to face a trial for genocide over killing in the Lebanon conflict. Speaking from Beijing, Chávez said the Jewish state had "done something similar or, perhaps worse, who knows, than what the Nazis did".
In 2008, during the spat with Colombia over the latter's intrusion into Ecuador, Chávez said "the Colombian government has become the Israel of Latin America." In doing so he also reiterated his criticism of the Israel Defense Forces' strikes on Palestinian militants.
Gaza War (2009)
Chávez broke off diplomatic ties and expelled the Israeli ambassador and his staff after the 2008-09 Gaza War which left around 1,200 Palestinians dead and over 5000 wounded. The Israeli government retaliated by expelling Venezuelan diplomats from the country. In April 2009 Venezuela officially recognised the existence of the State of Palestine and in September repeated an accusation that Israel was guilty of committing genocide against the Palestinians stating that "The question is not whether the Israelis want to exterminate the Palestinians. They're doing it openly".
When asked if he recognized the rights of Israel to live within secure and recognized borders, the Venezuelan president stated that he recognized such rights for Israelis, saying that "I recognize the right of Israel to live, like those in every other country. They all have the same rights, and that includes the future Palestinian state. But Israel must respect this principle of self-determination for Palestinians,"
At a rally in June 2010, Chavez alleged that “Israel is financing the Venezuelan opposition. There are even groups of Israeli terrorists, of the Mossad, who are after me trying to kill me.” In response, AJC Executive Director David Harris stated that: “These baseless accusations by President Chavez are downright dangerous and are used by him to bolster his own political standing.” In the same speech, Chavez called Israel a "terrorist and murderous state", and cursed it by saying: "I take this opportunity to condemn again from the bottom of my soul and my guts the State of Israel: Cursed be, State of Israel! Cursed is cursed, terrorists and assassins!".
During a visit by Syrian President Bashar Assad to Venezuela in June 2010, Chavez accused Israel of being "the assassin arm of the United States" and that "one day the genocidal state of Israel will be put into its place."
Nicholas Maduro announces "desire" to re-establish relations with Israel.
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- Dow Jones Newswires reported that, on August 10, while giving a speech in eastern Venezuela, Chávez said Venezuelans are "making a call to world leaders, for the love of God, let's halt this crazy fascist aggression against innocent people. Are we human or what are we?... I feel indignation for Israel's assault on the Palestinian people and the Lebanese people. They dropped bombs on shelters. ... It's a Holocaust that is occurring there." - Venezuela President Asks International Leaders To Halt Israeli Offensive.[permanent dead link] Dow Jones Newswire, Morning Star, August 10, 2006.
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- According to CNSNews, the vice-chairman of Hezbollah's political council, Mahmoud Komati, called Chávez's actions an example for "revolutionaries", and a "London, left-wing lawmaker" said that Chávez was a "real leader of the Arab people". - Goodenough, Patrick. Critics of Israel Hail Hugo Chavez. Archived 2007-09-29 at the Wayback Machine. CNSNews.com, 7 August 2006. Accessed April 3, 2008.
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