Katz: President is 'antisemitic and full of hatred'

Colombia to sever ties after months of panning Israel as ‘genocidal’

Foreign minister accuses Gustavo Petro, country’s first leftist president, of ‘standing alongside vile monsters who burned babies, raped women,’ ending decades-long relationship

Colombian President Gustavo Petro delivers a speech during a May Day (Labor Day) rally in Bogota on May 1, 2024. (Raul ARBOLEDA/AFP)
Colombian President Gustavo Petro delivers a speech during a May Day (Labor Day) rally in Bogota on May 1, 2024. (Raul ARBOLEDA/AFP)

Colombian President Gustavo Petro said Wednesday his country will cut diplomatic ties with Israel, describing the country’s leader as “genocidal” over the war against the Hamas terror group in Gaza.

“Tomorrow, diplomatic relations with the State of Israel will be severed… for having a genocidal president,” Petro told a May Day rally in Bogota. It was unclear if he had meant to refer to President Isaac Herzog, who serves in a largely symbolic role, or to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has directed the war effort.

In Jerusalem, Foreign Minister Israel Katz fired back that the leftist leader was “antisemitic and full of hatred.”

“History will remember that Gustavo Petro decided to stand alongside the most vile monsters that history has ever known, who burned babies, murdered children, raped women and kidnapped innocent civilians,” Katz wrote on X.

“The relations between Colombia and Israel were always warm,” Katz continued, “and no antisemitic president full of hatred will change that.”

Petro has repeatedly lambasted Israel’s actions in Gaza, refusing to condemn Hamas’s October 7 onslaught — in which some 1,200 people were murdered and 253 taken hostages, mostly civilians. Just three days after the massacre, he likened top Israeli officials to Nazi Germany.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro delivers a speech during the opening of Colombia’s regional elections, in Bogota on October 29, 2023. (Daniel Munoz/AFP)

The move will spell an end to a seven-decade relationship that was historically one of Israel’s closest in Latin America, underpinned for years by robust arms sales to Bogota, making it one of the main providers of arms to Colombia’s military.

Israel halted security exports to Colombia after Petro accused Defense Minister Yoav Gallant of using language about Gazans that was similar to what the “Nazis said of the Jews” shortly after October 7. Bogota then ordered Israel’s envoy to leave.

Petro, Colombia’s first leftist president, has also asserted that “democratic peoples cannot allow Nazism to reestablish itself in international politics.”

He had likened Israel to the Nazis even before he was elected president last year.

In February, Petro said the deaths of dozens of Gazans in a scramble for food aid “is called genocide and recalls the Holocaust.”

The Israeli military had dismissed as “baseless” accusations of intentional harm during that incident.

In March, Petro threatened to cut off ties if Israel didn’t comply with a UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, drawing more rebuke from Jerusalem.

Colombia’s armed forces, engaged in a decades-long conflict with leftist guerrillas, rightwing paramilitaries and drug cartels, have long relied on Israeli-made weapons and aircraft.

The country has a history of strong diplomatic and military relations with Israel and the United States. It established ties with Israel in the 1950s.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos smile during a ceremony to sign agreements at the Narino palace in Bogota on September 13, 2017. (Raul Arboleda/AFP)

Petro had previously come out in support of Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who also invoked the ire of Israel for saying its Gaza campaign “isn’t a war, it’s a genocide.”

Colombia and Brazil supported South Africa’s complaint against Israel to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, alleging the Gaza war amounted to a breach of the Genocide Convention.

Fellow Latin American country Bolivia cut diplomatic relations with Israel on November 1.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza has claimed that since the start of the war, 34,568 people have been killed, mostly civilians. These figures cannot be independently verified and, according to Israel, include at least 13,000 Hamas fighters. Another estimated 1,000 terrorists were killed in Israel during the October 7 onslaught.

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