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December 23, 2014 8:06 am

Israel Exploring Ties With Cuba After U.S. Rapprochement

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President Obama greets Raul Castro at Nelson Mandela's Memorial Service. Photo: Reuters.

JNS.orgIsrael is exploring the future of its relationship with Cuba following the recent American announcement of restored diplomatic ties with the Caribbean country.

“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,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon told The Times of Israel. “In light of the change we are studying the [U.S.] decision and stand in contact with American authorities.”

Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama announced the re-establishment of U.S.-Cuba diplomatic ties after more than 50 years, including the easing of some travel and trade restrictions. The news coincided with the freeing of Jewish-American contractor Alan Gross, who had been held in Cuban prison for several years.

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While the communist regime of Fidel Castro initially had a warm relationship with Israel shortly after the Cuban Revolution in 1959, Cuba unilaterally cut ties with the Jewish state in 1973 as Castro sought to increase ties with third-world countries in the Non-Aligned Movement, including Arab nations opposed to Israel’s existence.

Since then, a combination of Cuba’s harsh stance on Israel in international forums, ties with Iran and Venezuela, and the U.S. embargo on Cuba led to little contact between Cuba and Israel. Nevertheless, Israelis often visit Cuba and have contact with the country’s small Jewish community.

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