Javier Milei

Argentina's President Javier Milei delighted his Israeli hosts but upset Hamas on Tuesday by announcing moves to shift his country's embassy to Jerusalem, almost as soon as he touched down.

Milei had barely set foot on the tarmac at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv when he told Israel's awaiting Foreign Minister Israel Katz: "My plan is to move the embassy to west Jerusalem."

But militant group Hamas said it "strongly condemns" the proposed move, calling it "an infringement of the rights of our Palestinian people to their land, and a violation of the rules of international law".

Israel seized east Jerusalem and its Old City in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and any international recognition of its status as a capital is deeply controversial.

Hamas, the Islamist group that rules Gaza, said Jerusalem remains "occupied Palestinian land".

Multiple countries have diplomatic missions to the Palestinians in east Jerusalem.

Argentina would become one of only a handful of countries to have their embassy to Israel in Jerusalem, rather than Tel Aviv.

The United States notably made the move in 2018 under the presidency of Donald Trump after he recognised the city as Israel's capital.

Milei, the libertarian economist often compared to Trump, has repeatedly signalled his intention to follow suit.

Before leaving Buenos Aires, he said Israel was a natural major ally for Argentina on a par with the United States.

Later on Tuesday, Milei met his Israeli counterpart Isaac Herzog and said that Argentina has been "working on a project to declare Hamas as a terrorist group".

The territorial dispute over Jerusalem, which houses some of the holiest sites in Christianity, Islam and Judaism, is at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu applauded Argentina's move, while extreme-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said it was recognition of Jerusalem as "our eternal capital".

"The prime minister spoke about this with President Milei after his election and welcomes the fact that the president has kept his promise," a statement from his office read.

Netanyahu and Milei are scheduled to meet for talks on Wednesday, with the aim of deepening ties between the two countries.

After his arrival, Milei headed to the Western Wall in east Jerusalem -- the holiest place where Jews can pray -- where he received an enthusiastic welcome by crowds.

Some shouted his campaign slogan "Long live freedom, damn it!" in Spanish while others waved the Argentinian flag.

Milei looked visibly moved, with reddened eyes, as he approached the wall and spent several minutes with his forehead touching the stones, his arms outstretched, an AFP reporter said.

The president's trip will also see him visit a kibbutz and meet families of hostages taken by Hamas in its October 7 attack on southern Israel.

Milei, known for his fiery speeches and rock-star sideburns, describes himself as an "anarcho-capitalist". He was raised in a Catholic family but has studied Jewish scripture.

After his election win in November, he visited the tomb of a revered rabbi in New York -- a popular spiritual destination for some Jews.

Argentina's Jewish community is 250,000 strong and one of the largest in Latin America.

Milei has previously criticised his fellow Argentinian but toned down his rhetoric more recently.