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08HAVANA483 2008-06-23 21:19:00 CONFIDENTIAL US Interests Section Havana
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Tags:   CU IS PREL 
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1. (C) Modi Ephraim, Political Counselor from the Israeli
Embassy in Buenos Aires called on P/E Counselor June 23.
Ephraim is in Havana for three days looking at a variety
issues of interest to the GOI. Since Canada acts as
protecting power for Israel in Cuba, Ephraim had arranged the
visit with the help of DFAIT and the Canadian Embassy in
Havana. He said the GOC granted him a one week visa with an
annotation that he would not be allowed to meet with Cuban
government officials. When asked why the Embassy in Buenos
Aires had been tasked with the trip, Ephraim explained that
he had been selected personally because he had followed Cuba
issues in the past, and he is preparing to depart Buenos
Aires soon for an onward assignment in the Israeli Foreign

2. (C) Ephraim said his principal interests were to review
concerns about consular coverage for the growing number of
Israeli tourists coming to Cuba, and to look at possible
support for the Jewish community in Havana. He also was
interested in a political/economic overview, with a focus on
the treatment of religious groups. He queried P/E Counselor
regarding plans to build a mosque for Havana's Islamic
community (see also reftel), and possible Iranian activity in
that area. In response to a question, Ephraim said he did
not believe there is significant interest in investing on
Cuba in Israel. He went on to say that there is an ongoing
debate within the Foreign Ministry over whether Cuba matters
at all in the larger scheme of things.

3. (C) COMMENT: We think it is noteworthy that the Cuban
government granted Ephraim a visa at all given the fact that
Cuban propaganda has always subjected Israel to the same
level of scorn it employs with us. USINT maintains good
relations with the leadership of the small (1,200 to 1,500
member) Jewish community, and meets regularly with groups
from U.S.-based Jewish congregations, which provide
significant amounts of support to that community. Ephraim
was unaware of the high level of support given to the Cuban
Jewish community by its U.S. counterparts and indicated that
such information might convince GOI officials that they did
not need to invest as much in the community as they do in
other countries.