I asked him, during the course of our first conversation: "Do you think the State of Israel, as a Jewish State, has a right to exist?"
Fidel Castro answered, "Si, sin ninguna duda" -- "Yes, without a doubt."
When I followed-up by asking if he -- or, more to the point, his brother's government -- would reestablish relations with Israel, he gave a simple procedural answer -- these things take time -- rather than a condemnation of the idea. He went on, as I detailed in an earlier post, to express great sympathy for persecuted Jews throughout history, but he also said -- and this is truly notable -- that he understands how such suffering could inform the decision-making of Israel's prime minister: "Now, lets imagine that I were Netanyahu," Castro said, "that I were there and I sat down to reason through (the issues facing Israel), I would remember that six million Jewish men and women, of all ages were exterminated in the concentration camps." He also -- and this, too, might be considered notable -- expressed great admiration for Netanyahu's father, Ben-Zion, the world's foremost historian of the Spanish Inquisition, and a hardline Likudnik, who is today 100 years old but still arguing for his beliefs (he is also one of the subjects of my recent cover story on Iran and Israel). Fidel expressed a desire to talk to Ben-Zion Netanyahu, saying that he was "impressed by his character, his knowledge and his history."
Can you imagine: A summit meeting between the 100-year-old Ben-Zion Netanyahu and the 84-year-old Fidel Castro? That would be a meeting to remember. Talk about a nightmare for the Eradicate-Israel coalition! I don't necessarily think the two men would agree on much, but Fidel Castro has surprised us lately. Maybe Ben-Zion Netanyahu would surprise us as well.
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