By Juan Melamed
(JTA) — On his first day of his visit to Israel, Argentina’s new president, Javier Milei, told Israeli authorities that his country would move its embassy to Jerusalem.
Milei had vowed during his campaign to move the embassy from its current home in Herzliya, in a sign that Argentina recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
If carried out, the embassy move would make Argentina the sixth country, and only the second major country, to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem. Since then-President Donald Trump moved the U.S. embassy in 2017, fulfilling a campaign pledge, four countries have followed: Papua Guinea, Kosovo, Honduras and Guatemala.
Israel’s foreign minister, Israel Katz, met Milei on the tarmac at Ben Gurion Airport, where Milei arrived on a commercial El Al flight. Katz applauded Milei’s announcement, writing on X, “Thank you, Mr. President, @JMilei, for his statement about the transfer of the Argentine embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.” He ended with Milei’s campaign motto: “Viva la libertad, carajo!” or “Long live freedom, damn!”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also applauded the announcement during a meeting with Milei on Wednesday.
“I’m delighted to welcome you, President Milei, and your delegation, to Israel. You’re a great friend of the Jewish state. We are delighted with your decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move your diplomatic post there,” Netanyahu told him, according to a transcript provided by the prime minister’s office.
Netanyahu also spoke with Milei about their countries’ shared enemy in Iran, which is widely understood to have been responsible for bombings at the Israeli embassy and AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that together killed more than 100 people in the 1990s. And they spoke about their shared belief in free-market capitalism, according to the transcript. Milei is a self-described “anarcho-capitalist” who has moved to slash spending in Argentina.
“This is something that we both champion, and you are leading this in Argentina,” Netanyahu said. “We have led this in Israel. We can do a lot more together.”
Milei, an avowed philosemite who studies with a rabbi and has expressed interest in converting to Judaism, had vowed to visit Israel early in his presidency. He was close to tears as he made his first comments after arriving.
“It’s an honor for me to be here. I’m fulfilling my promise: My first diplomatic visit is to Israel,” he said before emphasizing that Argentina supports Israel in its current war against Hamas in Gaza.
Milei was wearing a “Bring Them Home” dog tag necklace that has become a symbol of the movement to free the roughly 100 living hostages who remain in Gaza. His trip includes a visit to Kibbutz Nir Oz, where dozens of Argentinean nationals were killed, injured or abducted on Oct. 7 when Hamas attacked.
On Tuesday, Milei traveled to the Western Wall, where he appeared tearful while praying at the holy site. On Wednesday, he visited Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, whose chairman, Dani Dayan, was born in Argentina.
“Where is the voice of the free world demanding for the release of the kidnapped?” Milei said there. “We shouldn’t remain silent in the face of modern Nazism today disguised as the terror group Hamas. Choosing life is fighting terrorism.”
Hamas issued a statement on Milei’s visit, saying that it “strongly condemns” the embassy move, which it called “an infringement of the rights of our Palestinian people to their land, and a violation of the rules of international law, considering Jerusalem as occupied Palestinian land.”
Milei’s support for Israel stands out in his region. His counterparts in neighboring Brazil and Chile, Lula de Silva and Gabriel Boric, both leftists, have condemned Israel for its military response to the Oct. 7 attack.