In Mex­ico, PM backs greater power for se­cu­rity cab­i­net

Colom­bian pres­i­dent lauds re­la­tion­ship with Is­rael

Jerusalem Post - - FRONT PAGE - • By HERB KEINON

MEX­ICO CITY – Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu backs le­gal changes that will en­able the se­cu­rity cab­i­net, rather than the full cab­i­net, to ap­prove mil­i­tary cam­paigns, he said here on Thurs­day morn­ing.

Ne­tanyahu stressed in com­ments to re­porters after meet­ing 10 lead­ing Mex­i­can busi­ness­men that this struc­tural change is nec­es­sary to deal with the chang­ing na­ture of mil­i­tary chal­lenges, and not linked to any spe­cific ac­tion that is planned.

The prime min­is­ter, who ar­rived in Mex­ico City late on Wed­nes­day night, said in re­sponse to a ques­tion about a re­port that the US in­tends to ex­tend sanc­tion re­lief for the Ira­ni­ans, that he will speak about Iran with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in New York next week.

Ne­tanyahu be­gan his day in Mex­ico City with two eco­nomic events, and said that it was not a co­in­ci­dence that he opened his visit by meet­ing some of the coun­try’s most in­flu­en­tial busi­ness­men, since the thrust of his time here is trade and in­vest­ment.

“Mex­ico is an eco­nomic power, one of the 12 largest economies in the world, and it can go higher. We have to be here, and be here in a big way,” he said.

Fol­low­ing the meet­ing with the busi­ness­men, Ne­tanyahu went to meet with Mex­i­can Pres­i­dent En­rique Peña Ni­eto in the af­ter­noon, and he said that the fo­cus of that meet­ing will also be busi­ness.

Some 150 Is­raeli firms are cur­rently present in Mex­ico, and the ob­jec­tive is both to sig­nif­i­cantly ex­pand that num­ber and to en­cour­age ad­di­tional in­vest­ment in Is­rael.

Ne­tanyahu ar­rived in Mex­ico from Bo­gota, where Pres­i­dent Juan Manuel Santos high­lighted that Is­rael of­fered its ex­per­tise in the “very hu­man­i­tar­ian” ef­fort of help­ing Colom­bia clear its coun­try­side of anti-per­son­nel mines. Santos met with

Ne­tanyahu at the pala­tial Casa de Nar­iño pres­i­den­tial res­i­dence in the city.

After Afghanistan, there are more anti-per­son­nel mines in Colom­bia – which is just emerg­ing from a 52-year war be­tween the gov­ern­ment and the Marx­ist-Lenin­ist FARC ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion – than any other coun­try in the world, he said. An es­ti­mated 25,000 peo­ple have been killed by th­ese mines over the last 25 years.

Last Septem­ber, a week after the sign­ing of the his­toric agree­ment be­tween the gov­ern­ment and FARC that earned Santos a No­bel Peace Prize, an eight-mem­ber del­e­ga­tion ar­rived in Is­rael to re­ceive in­struc­tions from the De­fense Min­istry’s Na­tional Mine Ac­tion Au­thor­ity.

“Your coun­try has been a friend and ally of Colom­bia, and re­cently a great ally in the con­struc­tion of peace in the coun­try,” Santos said. “We would like to strengthen this mag­nif­i­cent re­la­tion­ship.”

Ne­tanyahu ar­rived in Colom­bia late on Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon for a three-hour visit that Santos said was greatly ap­pre­ci­ated.

“We are hon­ored to have you vis­it­ing here, and are grate­ful you have cho­sen Colom­bia as one of the coun­tries in your first visit to Latin Amer­ica,” he said.

Santos said that Colom­bia can learn from Is­rael how to chan­nel and tap into the in­no­va­tion of its peo­ple.

The pres­i­dent ac­knowl­edged that Is­rael and Colom­bia have worked closely in the past on se­cu­rity mat­ters, and that there is an in­ter­est in strength­en­ing that co­op­er­a­tion.

Ne­tanyahu – who was in Bo­gota for one night some 30 years ago as Is­rael’s am­bas­sador to the UN – said that the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two coun­tries has been a “re­mark­able” al­liance.

Is­rael was “ex­cited” about the “post-con­flict” pos­si­bil­i­ties for co­op­er­a­tion: first in agri­cul­ture, se­condly in wa­ter man­age­ment, and thirdly in the area of cy­ber se­cu­rity, the prime min­is­ter said. He an­nounced a pro­ject whereby a num­ber of Colom­bians will come to Is­rael to learn about the field.

Re­gard­ing Colom­bia’s agri­cul­tural needs, the coun­try is keen on as­sis­tance in re­plac­ing with other crops the coca plant that was widely grown in ar­eas un­der FARC con­trol and is re­spon­si­ble for much of the world’s co­caine.

As he did in all his pub­lic speeches in Ar­gentina, Ne­tanyahu also high­lighted Iran’s spread of ter­ror­ism around the world.

The threat of rad­i­cal Is­lamic ter­ror­ism, he said, “has cre­ated new re­la­tions be­tween Is­rael and the Arab states, which no longer see Is­rael as an enemy but as an es­sen­tial ally against th­ese forces who seek to bring hu­man­ity back from a bril­liant fu­ture to a bar­baric one.”

Iran, he said, “is send­ing its ter­ror­ist wings in all di­rec­tions, in­clud­ing to Latin Amer­ica. We be­lieve that all coun­tries should unite, just as Is­rael co­op­er­ates with the Arab states in or­der to pre­vent the spread of Ira­nian ag­gres­sion and ter­ror­ism to other con­ti­nents.”

Colom­bia was the se­cond-leg of Ne­tanyahu’s three-coun­try Latin Amer­i­can tour, be­fore go­ing to the US on Fri­day, where he is sched­uled to meet with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Mon­day, and ad­dress the UN Gen­eral Assem­bly on Tues­day.

Ne­tanyahu met briefly at Bo­gota’s air­port with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the small Jewish com­mu­nity and some non-Jewish sup­port­ers of Is­rael. •

(Jaime Sal­dar­riaga/Reuters)

PRIME MIN­IS­TER BEN­JAMIN NE­TANYAHU ges­tures as he and Colom­bian Pres­i­dent Juan Manuel Santos sign bi­lat­eral agree­ments on Wed­nes­day in Bo­gota.

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