January 17, 1986
Israel establishes diplomatic relations with Spain, the last Western European nation to open formal ties with Israel. It’s also the first time that Spain officially recognizes the state of Israel. The establishment of diplomatic ties is a condition for Spain to gain admission to the European Community, the precursor to the European Union.
The diplomatic opening comes after a period of Spanish government debates and outreach to members of the Arab League to keep them informed about Spain’s plans. The Spanish government denounces Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and pledges to continue traditional relations “of friendship and solidarity toward the Arab world, closely linked to Spain by shared bonds of history and culture.”
The Israeli government, meanwhile, issues a statement reiterating its recent proposals for peace with the Arabs.
The modern diplomatic ties between Spain and Israel carry significance because of the Spanish expulsion of Jews in 1492 and the earlier history of Jews in Spain, which included a period of peaceful coexistence among Christians, Jews and Muslims.
Spain’s dictator, Francisco Franco, reportedly reached out to Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, in 1948 in the hope of establishing diplomatic relations with the new state. But Ben-Gurion rejected Franco’s proposal because of the Spanish leader’s close ties with Nazi Germany.