Panama is very interested in having a connection to Israel — so much so that they’re willing to support El Al airline financially if the planes traveling between Tel Aviv and Panama City aren’t always full. This past Thursday, Panama’s outgoing president, Ricardo Martinelli, said as much in a meeting with Israel’s president, Shimon Peres. Peres will also be leaving his office this July.
Throughout the past several years, Panama has stayed in support of Israel in numerous international forums, including the United Nations. Thursday’s meeting was an official one, but also a time for two outgoing presidents to bid farewell. Peres thanked Martinelli for his ongoing friendship, saying that even though he was “not sure” if Panama is the greatest country in the world, it is the “greatest friend of Israel.”
Peres also praised Panama’s treatment of its Jewish communities, and there are several Jewish members in Martinelli’s government. Martinelli said that he will continue to support Israel; “You have a true friend who wants nothing in return,” he said to Peres.
Peres hopes that a free-trade agreement that is in the works between the two countries will help to strengthen the relations between them, as well as positively impact both economies. “[I am] convinced that the relations between the two countries will continue to develop,” said Martinelli in agreement.
“For us, Panama is not a point on a map, it is a place in our hearts, because we have a great friendship with Panama,” explained Peres. “We appreciate the love and support given to our country.”
It’s likely that El Al will come to Panama City’s Tocumen International Airport, as interest in traveling to Panama — and using it as a gateway stop to the rest of South America — has been increasing in recent years. Already, new direct connections between Panama City and the international ports of Denver and Lisbon and have been established this year.