The Colombian government has announced its decision to send humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip in response to the Israeli military operations occurring in the region. With Israel issuing an ultimatum that may necessitate the evacuation of nearly one million people from the northern Gaza Strip, United Nations officials on the ground have acknowledged the extreme challenges involved in evacuating such a vast population amidst the current wartime conditions.
In the midst of the humanitarian crisis engulfing Gaza, Colombian President Gustavo Petro has assumed a significant role. Over the past week, President Petro has made a series of statements on social media that have raised controversy. He has gone as far as comparing Israeli military tactics to the policies of Nazi Germany. In light of these developments, he has called for an extraordinary session at the United Nations to seek a peaceful resolution to the ongoing conflict between Palestinians and Israelis.
President Petro Facing Criticism
President Gustavo Petro’s frequent statements on social media during the recent Palestinian-Israeli conflict have drawn significant attention. These statements have been controversial due to their strongly worded criticisms of the Israeli government and its military policies.
The Colombian opposition has expressed criticism, contending that the president’s statements could potentially harm the nation’s interests and its strategic military alliance. Israeli representatives have also condemned Petro’s remarks and even threatened to sever political relations with Colombia.
Nonetheless, President Petro has maintained his stance, vigorously denouncing Israel’s military response to Hamas’s attacks on civilians. These attacks included the launch of numerous missiles, mass casualties, and the abduction of young people attending an electronic music concert. Notably, among the casualties, there were two Colombians.
Recognizing that he may find few allies in the Americas, Petro has turned his attention toward the European Union, which has historically been more outspoken in condemning Israeli actions perceived as human rights violations.
In his recent statements, Petro has written, “At last, the response from the European Union upholds international law. Deliberate attacks on civilians are prohibited. Genocides are prohibited. Healthcare and medical personnel must be protected. Basic living conditions must be preserved.”
Israel Halts Security Exports to Colombia
Israel’s reaction to Gustavo Petro’s statements has been swift. The Colombian ambassador in Israel was summoned for a “reprimand conversation,” with the president’s comments labeled as “anti-Semitic.” Furthermore, Israel has decided to suspend security exports to Colombia, as announced by Lior Haiat, a spokesperson for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
This move directly impacts the Colombian Armed Forces, given that Israel is a key arms supplier and is responsible for the maintenance of the 12 Kfir aircraft used by Colombia.
Nevertheless, Petro remains undeterred by the consequences of his criticisms of Israel. In his recent tweets on the political tension between the two nations, President Petro has asserted, “If we need to suspend foreign relations with Israel, we will do so,” concluding with a resolute “We do not support genocides” in reference to Israel’s military actions in Gaza.
Within the country, criticism of the president has also emerged from the political opposition. Diego Molano, a former Minister of Defense and the current conservative candidate for the mayoralty of Bogota, has cautioned that “with the breakdown of this relationship, the Colombian government is jeopardizing the protection of its national security due to existing contracts with Israel.”
Molano has further remarked that the “pronouncement by Israel implies that there are indeed intentions on the part of the Colombian government to strengthen relations with countries that support terrorist groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah, and others,” and he has predicted “heightened terrorism risks in the country.”
Similar to other former conservative defense ministers, Diego Molano has outlined the potential consequences of a rupture in relations with Israel for Colombia’s defense. This criticism has been accompanied by disapproval of the current head of state’s condemnation of Israel’s military strategy against Gaza’s civilian population.