Danny Ayalon was set to return to Israel on Tuesday after traveling to Florida in his official capacity as deputy foreign minister with the purpose of bolstering the Jewish state's standing in the Hispanic community in the United States.
The trip was part of a Foreign Ministry campaign aimed at garnering the support of minorities in the US.
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Ayalon with Lieberman last week (Photo: Reuters)
The results of the latest presidential election in the US indicate that the Hispanic community is increasingly turning into a significant voting force. Roughly 75% of Hispanic voters – some 10 million people – have chosen President Barack Obama over his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, essentially paving the incumbent leader's way to a second term in the White House.
Against the backdrop of the demographic changes in the US and Obama's reelection, Israel's Foreign Ministry decided recently to launch a campaign meant to reach out to the various US sectors that supported the president – including the African-American, Hispanic and Chinese communities.
Israel faces a major challenge in this campaign considering that the traditional African-American support for the Jewish state has dropped in recent years. The trend has been largely influenced by statements made by former President Jimmy Carter, who equated Israel to the Apartheid regime in South Africa, as well as the Palestinians' efforts to draw parallels between their struggle for independence and the African-Americans' battle for civil rights in the '60s.
Outreach 'safeguards ties with US'
During his trip to the coastal state, Ayalon met with leaders in the Hispanic community and used the local media to inform residents about Israel, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the importance of maintaining ties.
"Tightening and maintaining the ties between Israel and the leaders within these communities safeguard the strategic alliance between Israel and the US," the diplomat said, branding the relationship as "vital to Israel's security."
The deputy foreign minister made a similar campaign trip to Alabama last month. While visiting the city of Birmingham Ayalon laid a wreath on behalf of Israel at the Baptist church that was the target of a racially-motivated bombing in 1963.
The ministry has hired 13 Spanish speakers to maintain community outreach out of Israeli consulates across the US. They are soon to be joined by employees charged with maintaining the ties with the African-American sector.
The ministry has also decided to increase the number of Hispanic and African-American delegations to Israel, and to grant students who belong to minority sectors scholarships to come study in Israel.
As part of an effort to liaise with the Chinese community in the US, the Israeli consulate in San Francisco recently held a festival focusing on Israeli film and books, as well as the business opportunities that await members of the sector in the Jewish state.
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