On 7 October, the fragile peace between Palestine and Israel, which both claim a legitimate right to the same area of land, collapsed. Many wonder what the Palestinian group Hamas hopes to achieve by attacking Israel. This attack was a strategic and intentional move to undermine geopolitical agreements between Israel and Saudi Arabia. It also aimed to show the world that tensions between Palestine and Israel remain unresolved, primarily due to Netanyahu’s government’s repressive tactics against Palestine.
The war has wrought global uncertainty. It has also made clear that the violence is not one-sided, given Israel’s disproportionate response in attacking and destroying the political, social, and economic infrastructure of the Gaza Strip and fragile Palestinian state.
Furthermore, this conflict has generated debate among the world’s leaders and publics. Latin America is no exception to the collective worry about the broader consequences of the war, and is also concerned about repercussions that this region in particular could face.
Latin American governments have debated who is responsible for the war in Israel-Palestine, and how far a country can go to defend itself after an attack against its sovereignty. In this regard, there are three main ways of thinking. First, some countries in the region emphatically condemn the attacks against Israel and defend an unrestricted right for Israel to defend itself. The countries in this first camp include Uruguay, Guatemala, Paraguay, Argentina, Peru, El Salvador, and Costa Rica.
Argentina deserves particular attention in this regard as the country with the largest Jewish community in Latin America. President Alberto Fernandez has denounced Hamas’s attack and announced a humanitarian aid mission to Israel. With an upcoming presidential election in Argentina, the three leading candidates—Milei, Bullrich and Massa—began a recent debate with words of solidarity for Israel. However, only Massa and Milei raised the issued during other parts of the debate. Massa promised that, if elected, he would add Hamas to Argentina’s list of terrorist organizations, while Milei sought to justify Israel’s counteroffensive by saying that Israel "has the right to defend its territory against terrorists."
A second group of countries in the region see the Hamas attacks as a consequence of years of Israeli abuses. These countries include Nicaragua, Venezuela, Cuba, and Colombia. For example, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has been vocal at the UN in demanding that the latter play a more active role in finding a solution to the conflict and recognizing Palestinian demands. Maduro also emphasized that Netanyahu could choose to end the war by halting the settlement and occupation of Palestinian territory. The Cuban and Bolivian governments took similar stances, and stated that Hamas’s actions were a consequence of the ongoing violation of Palestinian rights by Israel and its allies’ imperialist policies.
Finally, a third group of countries in the region has taken a neutral stance on the war. Mexico, Chile, Bolivia, Honduras, and Brazil have emphasized the importance of dialogue and negotiations in reaching a peaceful solution to the conflict. Mexican President López Obrador stated that his government’s position was the product of a constitutionally-backed foreign policy and the free determination of the people. Obrador expressed opposition to confrontation and said that he favored a solution to the conflict in which the legitimate concerns of both states were addressed, namely, Israeli security and a politically and economically viable Palestinian state. Obrador said that he supported international recognition of both Israel and Palestine and coexistence without intimidation.
Chile is home to one of the largest Palestinian diasporas outside the Middle East (approximately half a million people). Chilean President Boric condemned the attacks against Israel, but did not label it as terrorism. Moreover, he appealed for an end to the violence in order to avoid further harm to civilians. Boric stated that "the use of force against civilians during armed conflicts is unacceptable, even if it is in legitimate defense."
Finally, Brazil, which currently holds the presidency of the UN Security Council, called an emergency meeting for diplomatic proceedings to find a solution to the hostilities between Palestine and Israel. The Brazilian government emphasized that "there is no justifying violence, especially against civilians." Brazil would like to prevent the conflict from expanding further, which would create more obstacles to reaching an agreement between both states and their allies within the UN.
In another emergency meeting scheduled for 15 October, Brazil intends to propose new options for dialogue and humanitarian aid to both nations.
Despite the divergent stances of various Latin American governments on the recent events in Israel-Palestine, all countries in the region have condemned the violence in the Middle East. Given that Latin America is home to large Palestinian and Jewish populations, there are concerns that the conflict could cause more disinformation, and lead to an increase in xenophobia and violence against Arab, Muslim, or Jewish communities in the region.
Latin American governments are also concerned about the safety of their citizens (residents or tourists) in the conflict zone, and have been negotiating with Israel and Egypt to evacuate civilians, rescue hostages, and repatriate the dead.
The ongoing Palestinian-Israeli war has led to escalating tensions and a precarious multilateral political and economic situation between Latin America and its commercial partners. With some countries being denounced as friendly to "terrorists," it is difficult to see any possible path forward in the conflict.