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Pointing to a shift back to pro-Palestinian policy, new Brazilian president removes envoy in Israel

Brazil’s new foreign minister declares that Brazil “will cooperate with Arab countries, primarily Palestine”

Brazil’s Ambassador to Israel General Gerson Menandro Garcia de Freitas (Photo: The Itamaraty Palace)

In one of his first acts as Brazil’s newly-elected president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva removed the country’s ambassador to Israel from his post and withdrew its U.S.-facing ambassador from Washington.

The Brazilian ambassador to Israel, Gen. Gerson Menandro Garcia de Freitas, was appointed by Lula’s right-wing predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro. 

The removal of de Freitas might indicate a return to the pre-Bolsonaro policy of support for the Palestinians. Menandro’s appointment served as a lead-in to Bolsonaro’s decision to begin supporting Israel in international institutions. 

When Lula’s government was established at the beginning of the month, Brazil’s new foreign minister, Mauro Vieira, declared that Brazil “will cooperate with Arab countries, primarily Palestine.” 

Menandro’s removal may indicate a policy shift, away from Israel, by the Latin American country’s new left-wing government.

Bolsonaro’s appointment of Menandro was partly intended to strengthen military ties with Israel. At the same time, he announced that the Brazilian embassy would move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but pressure from the Arab world thwarted it. Instead, Brazil opened up a trade office in Jerusalem.

Under Bolsonaro – and in response to a request made by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Brazil abstained from a United Nations vote on the Palestinian proposal which called for the International Court of Justice to give an opinion regarding the “legality of the occupation.” 

In 2014, prior to Bolsonaro’s presidency, Brazil recalled its ambassador from the Jewish state in protest of Israel’s war with terrorist factions in the Gaza Strip. Brazil’s then-president Dilma Rousseff called Israel's action in Gaza “disproportionate.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry responded by accusing Brazil of “adopting a double standard” and “becoming part of the problem,” while calling it “irrelevant in the political arena.”

Two years later, the Brazilian government refused to accept Israel’s appointment of Danny Dayan as ambassador to Brazil because he was living in a settlement and was a former leader of a powerful settler lobby.

The election of Lula, who strongly supports communist China, has been rejected by right-wing voters who are protesting in the streets that the election was fraudulent and broke into the Congress building, rioting and clashing with security forces at the capitol. They also stormed the Supreme Court and the Presidential Palace, which are located within a short distance from Brazil’s Congress. More than 1,500 people were arrested during the unrest.

Just two days prior to Lula being sworn-in, Bolsonaro, now living in Florida, posted a condemnation of the unlawful demonstrations and destruction of property, calling the actions a “violation of the law” and making comparisons to similar behavior seen from the left-wing back in 2013 and 2017.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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