This is a guest post by Anya Landau French, who directs the New America Foundation/U.S.-Cuba Policy Initiative. This post originally appeared at The Havana Note.
Politico’s Ben Smith reports that incoming House Foreign Affairs Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen worked to shut down a potential warming of Cuban-Israeli relations after Fidel Castro made a surprise defense of the Jewish people earlier this year. (Castro questioned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his failure to recognize the holocaust, and said that “no one has been more slandered than the Jews.”)
According to Smith, Israeli officials saw Castro’s uncharacteristic remarks as an opportunity.
Israeli leaders reacted warmly to an unexpected defense of Jews and Israel, and criticism of Iran, from Cuban leader Fidel Castro in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Castro’s “deep understanding” and President Shimon Peres wrote in a warm letter to Castro that the comments were “a surprising bridge between the hard reality and a new horizon.” Israeli officials, I’m told, saw the moment as an opportunity to widen a fissure in the hostility of the global left for Israel.
Alan Berger, at the Boston Globe, would probably agree (h/t to the Atlantic’s Goldberg). After Goldberg publicized Castro’s comments, Berger argued that Castro himself sought to moderate some of his allies with his comments.
“Whatever his personal feelings about the matter, Castro was drawing a bright line between himself and Ahmadinejad. At the same time, he was giving a lesson to his foremost student, Ch