Sources: Israelnationalnews.com, arutz-sheva The United States and Cuba will start talks on normalizing full diplomatic relations, marking the most significant shift in US policy toward the communist island in decades, American officials said Wednesday. The announcement comes amid a series of new confidence-building measures between the longtime foes, including the release of American Alan Gross and the freeing of three Cubans jailed in the US.
US President Barack Obama was to announce the policy changes from the White House at noon Wednesday.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, said the US and Cuba were moving toward normalized banking and trade ties. He also said the US was poised to open an embassy in Havana in the coming months.
“This is going to do absolutely nothing to further human rights and democracy in Cuba,” Rubio said in an interview. “
Cuba and the United States have been enemies for a long time. Now they have recognized each other. Contractor Alan Gross has been freed.
The Cold War is pretty much over, although North Korea remains America’s foe, as we are learning from the reaction to a film that SONY was planning to release.
In 1956, during the height of the Cold War, the United States and the USSR were able to join to undo the victory that Israel, with the aid of Great Britain and France, had won against Egypt. Eisenhower and Khrushchev together forced Israel to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula, which it had just conquered. Things began to change when John Kennedy became president. Kennedy ended the embargo against arms to the Middle East. Relations between the United States and Israel continued to warm up, and during the Six-Day War in 1967, America was on Israel’s side. The Communist world had pretty much joined the world of Islam at the time of the Bandung Conference, which took place in Indonesia in 1955.
The USSR recognized Israel officially in 1991, shortly before the fall of the Soviet Union. China did so in1992. On the other hand, Cuba, Venezuela, and North Korea remained totally opposed to Israel’s existence. The Cold War was ending—a bit at a time. When countries became less committed to opposing the United States, their opposition to Israel grew milder.
In September 2010, Fidel Castro, no longer in power, made a remarkable statement in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic.
Fidel said that Israel had the right to exist as a Jewish state. Despite the fact that Fidel Castro had ceded power to his brother Raul, he remained, and remains, one of the most honored leftist leaders in the world. An important and respected Communist had said that Israel should exist. Mysteriously, the interview never gained much attention. Cuba officially remained Israel’s enemy.
If the Cold War between Cuba and the USA has ended, isn’t it time for Cuba to recognize Israel? One would especially think this should be the case in light of the 2010 interview in The Atlantic. If Cuba did so, Venezuela might reconsider its hostility to Israel. Under Hugo Chavez, Venezuela was actively anti-Israel. Chavez and former Iranian president Ahmadinejad visited each other frequently. Chavez expressed support for Iran’s nuclear program. After Chavez died, his successor, Nicolas Maduro, has not changed Venezuela’s policies concerning Iran, but has sounded less strident. One could imagine that if Cuba recognized Israel, Venezuela would no longer feel compelled to support Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
The country that might benefit most if Cuba recognized Israel would be the United States. Among the reasons that so many leftists hate America is that they consider it a tool of Israel. If an admired leftist country like Cuba changed its policies and accepted Israel’s existence, the United States would be less isolated and less of a target of leftist hatred.
Would Iran change its policies? That is something of a possibility. President Rouhani is less strident than Ahmadinejad, his predecessor. Iran has been suffering from sanctions that have been imposed because of its nuclear efforts. Maybe Rouhani could follow Cuba’s lead. Maybe.
Gross, 65, was on an American government plane bound for the US Wednesday morning after being released on humanitarian grounds by the Cuban government at the request of the Obama administration. As part of the secret negotiations to secure his release, the US was releasing three Cuban jailed in Florida for spying.
Obama administration officials have considered Gross’ imprisonment an impediment to improving relations with Cuba.
Cuba was also releasing a non-American intelligence “asset” along with Gross, according to a US official. That official and others spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to be identified by name before Obama’s
Cuba considers USAID’s programs illegal attempts by the US to undermine its government, and Gross was tried and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
The three Cubans released in exchange for Gross are part of the so-called Cuban Five — a group of men who were part of the “Wasp Network” sent by Cuba’s then-President Fidel Castro to spy in South Florida. The men, who are hailed as heroes in Cuba, were convicted in 2001 in Miami on charges including conspiracy and failure to register as foreign agents in the US.
Two of the Cuban Five were previously released after finishing their sentences.
In a statement marking the fifth anniversary of Gross’ detention earlier this month, Obama hinted that his release could lead to a thaw in relations with Cuba.
Gross’ family has said he was in ailing health.Obama has taken some steps to ease US restrictions on Cuba after Raul Castro took over as president in 2010 from his ailing brother. He has sought to ease travel and financial restrictions on Americans with family in Cuba, but has resisted calls to drop the embargo.
Among the expected changes as a result of the improvement in US-Cuba relations is that licensed American travelers to Cuba will now be able to return to the US with $400 in Cuban goods, including tobacco and alcohol products worth less than $100 combined. This means the long-standing ban on importing Cuban cigars is over, although there are still limits, according to a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the official White House announcement.