Druze-Israeli minister publicly meets Arab officials in Ecuador on Trump peace initiative

RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — In an unprecedented move, an Israeli Knesset minister met in public with officials from Gulf states and a Palestinian diplomat in Ecuador’s capital city Quito.

Israeli Minister Ayoub Kara, who is a Druze Arab, attended last week’s swearing-in ceremony of Lenin Moreno as Ecuador’s new president along with delegates from around the world. He credited U.S. President Donald Trump’s efforts in the Middle East for bringing about his visit.

Kara tweeted that he was “surprised by the warm attitude of representatives from the Gulf states,” crediting Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia and Israel as a game changer, the Times of Israel reported.

Kara, who on Sunday was named Communications Minister, posted photos of him meeting with representatives from the Palestinian Authority along with delegates from Oman, Qatar, Yemen and other Arab nations, as well as the prime minister of the Sahrawi Republic of southern Morocco, Abdelkader Taleb Omar, the report said.

The meetings were “open and cordial” and all sides “expressed their approval to move forward with the political negotiations,” the Israeli official said in a statement.

“President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu are coordinating every step of this political initiative, and there is progress on the issue,” he said. “For the first time, after years of action in the political arena, [representatives of] countries from the Saudi coalition agreed to meet openly with me as a representative of the State of Israel,” he tweeted in Hebrew.

The minister also spoke with the presidents of Latin American nations including Ecuador, Colombia, Guatemala and Paraguay to convince them to join forces with Israel in the fight against terrorism.

“Just as Africa has taken giant steps closer to Jerusalem, we will do everything for Ecuador and all of Central and South America to come closer to Israel too,” he said, reported the Times of Israel.

Last year, Israel’s Foreign Ministry summoned an Ecuadorean diplomat in Tel Aviv to protest a speech delivered by his country’s envoy to the United Nations that equated Zionism with Nazism.

The Ecuadorean embassy’s third secretary, Enrique Ponce, addressed the audience with historical falsehoods and inaccuracies, “especially the comparison made between the treatment of the Palestinians to the horrors of the Nazi regime,” reported the ministry at the time.

Ecuador has not had an ambassador in Israel since it recalled its envoy from Israel during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in 2014.

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