The sudden thaw in U.S.-Cuban relations caught Israel off guard, and Foreign Ministry officials are not happy about it.
Just how unhappy can be gauged by Israel’s refusal thus far to issue a statement welcoming the new policy, despite a request from the Obama administration that went out to countries around the world.
Israeli diplomats received no advance notice. “They didn’t even give us a few minutes’ warning,” one senior Ministry official told Haaretz.
This, despite Israel’s loyal support for the U.S. position until now. Each year, the U.N. General Assembly has voted on a resolution calling on the U.S. to lift the Cuba embargo. And each year, including this last October, Israel was the only nation that voted with the U.S. against the resolution.
In addition, Israel would prefer to avoid taking sides against the congressional critics of the policy change, such as Havana-born Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and outgoing chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Robert Menendez, both of whom have strongly pro-Israel.
Then, too, Israeli-Cuban relations have their own troubled record.
“Israel supported the American Cuba policy in international forums in the context of the strategic alliance between the two countries and because of Cuba’s critical line on Israel in these forums,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon toldThe Times of Israel.
Cuba unilaterally severed diplomatic ties with Israel in 1973.
In 2010, however, Fidel Castro, who had by then been replaced as president by his younger brother, Raul, told U.S. journalist Jeffrey Goldberg that Israel has “without a doubt” the right to exist. Asked by Goldberg whether Havana would consider resuming diplomatic ties, he did not rule out the possibility in the course of time.
Despite the initial vexation, Israeli officials indicated a change in Israel’s policy toward Cuba is likely to follow.