An overhead video clip of a Columbian coal mine in action

Colombian President Gustavo Petro announced Saturday that his country will suspend coal exports to Israel in a dramatic rebuke against what he described as Israel’s "deadly war" against Hamas in Gaza. This bold move has sent shockwaves through international diplomatic circles and further strained relations between the two nations.

Colombia is Israel's primary coal supplier, with exports totaling approximately $450 million in 2023, according to the Israeli embassy in Bogota. Despite Petro's government severing diplomatic ties with Israel in May, the embassy remains operational. Petro, Colombia’s first leftist president and a staunch critic of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, declared on X that coal exports to Israel would cease "until the genocide stops," a claim that has been widely disputed by urban warfare experts. These experts maintain that Israel is making extraordinary efforts to preserve human life amid the conflict.

A government decree clarified that the export restrictions would stay in place "until the orders of provisional measures issued by the International Court of Justice (ICJ)… are fully complied with." In late May, as part of a case brought by South Africa, the ICJ ordered Israel to halt its operations in the southern Gaza city of Rafah and demanded the release of hostages and the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid into the Palestinian territory. However, the ICJ has admitted that Israel has been in compliance with its orders, a fact highlighted by Joan Donoghue, former president of the court who issued the ruling, says the exact opposite: that the ICJ “didn't decide that the claim of genocide was plausible” nor “that there's a plausible case of genocide.”

Nonetheless, the Colombian government specified that the coal export ban would take effect five days after the decree's publication and would not impact goods already approved for shipment. Bogota emphasized coal's significance as "a strategic resource for the manufacture of weapons, troop mobilization, and provisions for military operations." Israel's next two top coal sources is Russia and South Africa, two countries that have been highly critical of Israel as well.

Petro also announced that Colombia would cease purchasing weapons from Israel, a major supplier to the South American country's security forces. This decision marks a significant shift in Colombia's defense procurement strategy and could have far-reaching implications for its military capabilities given the fact that Israeli arms are considered among the world's best.

On Thursday, the Colombian Mining Association expressed serious concerns over the potential suspension of exports, highlighting a trade treaty between the two nations in place since 2020. "Israel is a key destination for Colombia’s thermal coal exports," the organization stated, warning that banning shipments "jeopardizes confidence in markets and foreign investment."

In a move that further underscores his administration's stance, Petro revealed plans to open an embassy in Ramallah, the de facto administrative capital of the Palestinian territories, cementing Colombia’s support for the Palestinian cause. This development is likely to provoke strong reactions from various international stakeholders and could influence future diplomatic and economic interactions in the region. While over 100 nations have recognized Palestine as a State despite the Palestinian Authority's numerous rejections of Israeli peace offerings, the United Nations still does not consider Palestine to be a sovereign State.

As the world watches, Petro's actions have not only intensified the geopolitical landscape but also raised critical questions about the balance of power, economic dependencies, and the role of international law in conflict resolution. The unfolding situation promises to be a significant test of Colombia's Marxist leader's foreign policy and popularity in his country.

Sign Up For The Judean Newsletter

I agree with the Terms and conditions and the Privacy policy