Brazil's President-Elect Blasts Critics of Israel as Netanyahu Visits

Hugh Fox
January 1, 2019

Netanyahu and his wife were greeted at the airport Friday by the incoming president's son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, and Rio Mayor Marcelo Bezerra Crivella.

The Israeli prime minister will remain in Brazil for the inauguration, despite the recent dissolution of the Knesset and announcement regarding April 9 elections.

Benjamin Netanyahu is due to meet Bolsonaro on Friday afternoon in Rio de Janeiro.

Bolsonaro also signaled his intention to pull Brazil from the United Nations' Global Compact for Migration, a move the current Foreign Minister, Aloysio Nunes, said will cause problems for Brazilians living overseas.

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An embassy move could put at risk lucrative Brazilian poultry and halal meat exports to Arab countries, which fiercely oppose any unilateral steps seen as cementing Israel's claim to all of Jerusalem as its capital.

The much-awaited trip marks the end of an era of strained ties between Brazil and the Jewish state.

Brazil's President-elect, Jair Bolsonaro, on Thursday night tweeted that he was looking forward to the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu, before boarding his flight to Brazil, expressed similar optimism about meeting Bolsonaro. "It's hard to believe that we had no such contacts before", he added. "We want to be your partners in this effort, we think our cooperation can give both our people tremendous benefits - in the economy, employment, security, agriculture, water, industry, in every domain of human endeavor".

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is set to attend Bolsonaro's New Year's Day inauguration in Brasilia and will discuss Trump's invitation to Washington, the official said.

The official, who was not authorized to preview Pompeo's trip publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said Pompeo would raise the broad issue of sovereignty when discussing multilateral agreements like the Paris climate accord from which Trump has said the US will withdraw. Brazil has traditionally backed a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Netanyahu said that Bolsonaro - the latest in a list of right wing leaders who have catapulted to leadership positions around the world - will be welcomed in Israel as a "great friend, as a great ally, as a brother".

Almost 20 percent of Brazil's $5 billion beef exports go to 17 Arab countries. Current trade between Brazil and Israel is around $1.12 billion, with expectations that bilateral trade and economic relations between the two countries could flourish under Bolsonaro.

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