Stephen Daisley Stephen Daisley

Javier Milei is no populist

Credit: Getty Images

When Javier Milei visited Israel and announced that he would be moving Argentina’s embassy to Jerusalem, I suppose that was terribly ‘populist’ of him.

Try as I might, I can’t find it in me to be appalled by Milei’s pronouncement, and not because he already floated it during his election campaign. For one thing, it must be nice to have a government that decides its own foreign policy rather than contracting out such matters to the European Commission, the US State Department and the NGO sector. For another, Argentina’s president is taking a stand that Britain ought to have taken long ago. As The Spectator’s move-the-embassy-to-Jerusalem correspondent, I am by now a veteran of this particular debate and well aware that any attempt by a British government to adopt this policy would be blocked by the SOAS graduate employment scheme more commonly known as the Foreign Office. Nevertheless, I persist. 

With so much of the international community as uninterested in Israel’s millennia-old connection to Jerusalem as they are to the country’s security concerns, renting some office space in the business district and calling it an embassy is a low-cost but highly symbolic way of reassuring the Jewish state that you understand the tough street it lives on. That reassurance would not only be for Israel’s benefit but for the Palestinians’ benefit, too. A reassured Israel would be more likely to take further risks with its security for a chance at peace. 

One of the most scarring phenomena for Israelis since the Oslo Accords has been diplomatic double-dealing. Time and again, Israel was urged to make concessions – withdraw from Gaza, hand over major West Bank cities, evacuate settlements. In each case, the promise from foreign capitals was the same: do this and, if the Palestinians exploit these concessions to attack you, we will back your right to self-defence.

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