Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Sara arrived Wednesday (Sept. 13) at the presidential palace in Bogota, where they were welcomed by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in a ceremony that included an honor guard and the playing of the two countries’ national anthems.
The two leaders met privately and afterwards were joined by Colombia’s foreign, defense and agriculture ministers.
Among the topics discussed were deepening bilateral cooperation in agricultural and water technologies, innovation and cyber defense. Netanyahu and Santos agreed a Colombian cyber delegation would visit Israel for advanced training, and the prime minister expressed Israel’s support for Colombia’s accession to the OECD.
Israel is an observer state in the Pacific Alliance, which includes Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Chile, which combined constitute the eighth largest economy in the world. “Israel intends to deepen economic cooperation with this major market,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.
During the prime minister’s visit, the following bilateral agreements were signed:
1. An MOU on science: The MOU was signed between the Science, Technology and Space Ministry and its Colombian counterpart. Its goal is to promote joint scientific research. The MOU is pursuant to a 1962 framework agreement and will advance the exchange of knowledge as well as promote initiatives and entrepreneurs in the field of innovation. To this end, it provides for seminars, conferences and other events, and is to be implemented immediately upon signing.
2. A bilateral framework agreement on tourism: Its goal is to advance tourism between Israel and Colombia, especially organized tourism. The sides will promote cooperation between various tourism organizations and aspire to develop cooperation in rural tourism, digital tourism and visits to national heritage and religious sites. The sides will also cooperate in various fields including a) exchanges of knowledge about projects and tourism research, and between travel experts and tourism ministries (statistics, tourism literature, etc.), b) promoting cooperation in private sector investments and c) strengthening bilateral cooperation at the World Tourism Organization. The agreement is subject to ratification.
Netanyahu told Santos in remarks during their joint news briefing that he’s looking forward to “a future of hope and purpose for both Columbia and Israel.” And, he said, “maybe you will finally teach us how to make a good cup of coffee!”
Here’s the full transcript of the prime minister’s remarks:
“Under your leadership in the few, the recent years it’s been a remarkable alliance [between Israel and Colombia] of faith and values, faith in the future.
I have to tell you that I, this is my second visit to Colombia. I came here for one evening 30 years ago, some 30 years ago. I think I was ambassador at the UN, and I was invited to Bogota for one evening. So I’ll give you my impressions just from a few hours. There is enormous change, enormous progress, enormous growth, and I believe this merely sets the stage for will happen in the next 30 years. Now, one thing I want to tell you, I don’t think that the first visit of the Prime Minister of Israel, acting Prime Minister of Israel should be 70 years apart, so I guarantee you the next visit will be a lot closer at hand.
But I think that this, this opportunity to visit Latin America and to visit Colombia, the first visit of a sitting Israeli Prime Minister, I think is one that infuses us with great excitement, great emotion, and we believe that there is great hope. We think that Latin America, as a whole, has tremendous potential, and we believe that the world is now at the juncture of a great change. The world economy will never be the same again.
Everything is becoming technologized, everything. Areas that were deemed as low technology are becoming suffused with technology, which changes productivity, which changes the benefits given people in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago. Everybody sees it with the cellular phones, but if you think about it go back 20, 25 years, we had to go to public phones, remember? We had to go to a public phone to communicate to each other. We had no phones in cars. The world is changing there, but it’s changing.
You mentioned agriculture. We now have the confluence of big data, artificial intelligence and connectivity in agriculture, not merely in sophisticated industries of communications or advanced manufacturing, but in agriculture. So, a drone is flying in the sky. It is photographing the field, and it can locate the exact plants that need to have more fertilizer, so you don’t spread it on average across kilometers and kilometers of field. You save money and you produce more with less.
This is what we do in Israel, we produce more with less, more water with less input, more milk with less expenditure, cleaner water, cleaner air, better energy. We can do more with less. We think that we can do a lot more here, a lot more together. We are excited by the post-conflict opportunities that are presented in Colombia. We have discussed, the President and I, several areas.
The first, obviously agriculture; the second is water, how to help from our experience to address the barren parts of Colombia. We think there are many possibilities here. We discussed cyber security. This is an area that is important for all countries, but not only on the governmental level, even your bank accounts. People save and they deposit money in banks, and somebody can come and rob your money, and so you need this protection. Israel… We agreed that we’d have some people that you will designate sent over to Israel. I think that they’ll benefit from this experience and we’ll cooperate with you as well on this.
We talked about tourism. Well, so I can say after the signing of this tourism agreement, I’m the first Israeli tourist here, but many more will follow. I met some of your Christian leaders at the airport who kindly came to greet me with the leaders of the Jewish community. And we will welcome all Colombians who come to see Israel, a country that connects the old with the new, and has some great sites from the history of Christianity, but also great sites of leisure and futuristic technology.
We see all this as very fertile field which we can plow together and give benefits to our people. This requires one other thing. I have to say that just as the world is giving us untold possibilities, there is also a great threat that has emerged. And that threat is not merely the threat of terrorism — which Colombia has gone through and has overcome — but it’s the threat of militant Islamic terrorism that has plagued first Muslims and then the rest of the world.
It has two fountainheads: one is Da’esh and the other is Iran. This has produced a newfound relationship between Israel and the Arab countries, because they now see Israel not as an adversary, but as their indispensable ally against these forces that want to take back humanity from its fantastic future to a barbaric past. Iran is sending its forces and its terrorist outreaches everywhere, including into Latin America. And we believe that all countries should unite, as Israel is cooperating with Arab countries, to prevent the expansion of Iranian aggression and terror to other continents as well.
We have cooperated in the past on security; we stand ready to cooperate in the future. I think that if we provide security for our people and we provide the benefits of technology and innovation to our economies, this will give I would say a future of hope and purpose for both Colombia and Israel.
And I would say one other thing: the future belongs to those who innovate. Israel is an innovation nation. Colombia has outstanding capabilities and people. We’d like to merge them together, so we have decided today on rekindling and refinancing an innovation fund, the Columbia Israel Innovation Fund. And maybe you will teach us finally how to make a good cup of coffee! But many, many other things I’m sure.
I want to thank you once again for your hospitality, and I look forward to our continued cooperation.”