Argentina’s new President Javier Milei has promised to move his country’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Milei, who staunchly backs Israel amid the war in Gaza, arrived in Jerusalem Tuesday and is set to meet rabbis and hold talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday.
Milei might be one of the most pro-Israel presidents in his country’s history, and has a well-documented fascination with Judaism, often suggesting that he may convert.
Israelis ‘fascinated’ with Milei
Milei has taken a different approach to Israel than his counterparts in Latin America: His government plans to label Hamas a terrorist organization, while others in the region have criticized Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. In Israel, his interest in Judaism has been watched closely. “People here are fascinated with Milei,” Alan Kronik, an Argentine who lives in Israel, told La Nacion, adding that he “is as well known as Maradona and Messi.”
Milei may have one of the most pro-Israel governments in his country’s history
Shortly after winning Argentina’s presidential election in November, Milei traveled to New York, where he visited the grave of Menachem Mendel Schneerson, a famous rabbi. Milei, a Catholic, has said he intends to convert to Judaism, and has taken part in several Jewish ceremonies. The trip signaled Milei’s early priorities in his government, Carlos Ruckauf, a former Argentine vice president, told Bloomberg. “To go so early to the US or signal he would go to Israel sends a very clear message about Milei’s foreign policy,” he said. Argentina has the largest Jewish community in Latin America, and 11 Argentines were among the hostages taken by Hamas on Oct. 7.
Milei reportedly studies Judaism, but some in community question his politics
The president’s interest in Judaism came about before he entered politics, and people familiar with Milei’s thinking told Argentine outlet A24 that he has “been studying [the religion] for years,” and has a genuine interest in its teachings. But his embrace of Judaism has detractors, A24 noted. Dozens of left-wing Jewish intellectuals penned a letter criticizing Milei’s Libertarian views and often discriminatory politics during his presidential campaign. “I know that many Jews like it and see it as something positive, it worries me,” Rabbi Uriel Romano said last year. “I would not very much like the elected president of all Argentines to use his religion in the media.”