Venezuela's government said Wednesday it is proud of that Israel has expelled its ambassador, calling Israel's leaders criminals while denying allegations of anti-Semitism at home.
Israel's Foreign Ministry announced Wednesday that it had ordered the Venezuelan ambassador to leave this week, responding to Venezuela's Jan. 6 declaration that it was expelling Israeli diplomats because of Israel's invasion of the Gaza Strip.
Venezuela escalated the clash on Jan. 14 by saying it was breaking relations altogether, though it apparently left its own ambassador in Israel.
"The response of the state of Israel is weak, late, and in any case for us it's an honor," Foreign Minister
Nicolas Maduro told the Qatar-based television network Al-Jazeera. "We're proud that the state of Israel that exists today, led by these criminals, made this decision." The comments were posted on his ministry's Web site.
Maduro also rejected accusations of anti-Semitism by a Jewish community leader, Abraham Levy.
"All of the Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities know religious discrimination is not a problem that has or will have a place in our society," Maduro said, complaining that every time a country criticizes Israel's government, it "Is automatically added to the list of anti-Semites."
"Where we live, the anti-Semitism is sanctioned," Levy told the world Jewish Congress in Jerusalem on Monday, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. "It comes from the president, through the government, and into the media."