President Reuven Rivlin called Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff to apologize for an insulting remark made by a Foreign Ministry official.
Following criticism by Brazil’s Foreign Ministry of what it considered to be Israel’s disproportionate military operation in Gaza, Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor called Brazil a diplomatic dwarf.
Brazil subsequently recalled its ambassador to Israel Henrique da Silvera Sardinha to return home for consultations.
Rather than allow the situation to deteriorate into a dangerous diplomatic rift, Rivlin on Monday telephoned Rouseff to apologize for Palmor’s statement.
Information about the call was not initially released to the Israeli media by the president’s spokeswomen. It was only after the gist of the call was published in the Brazilian media that the president’s office put out a press release.
In what was described as “a long conversation” Rivlin emphasized the excellent relations that had existed for many years between the two countries and the two peoples.
Rivlin said that the people of Israel have a great affection for Brazil, adding that although there may be differences in opinion, the two countries have shared values.
Rousseff congratulated Rivlin on his election, but remained adamant in her condemnation of the severity of Israeli retaliation against rocket fire from Gaza.
Nor did she let Rivlin lightly off the hook with regard to Palmor, declaring that one has to be very careful about what one says, because words can create a bad climate.
However, she did acknowledge Israel’s right to self defense and voiced strong disapproval of the rocket attacks from Gaza to which Israeli civilians have been subjected.
She attributed the blame for the attacks to Hamas, declaring that Brazil regretted the loss of life on both sides of the conflict.
Rousseff voiced the hope that the cease-fire would continue and that a solution would be found to facilitate co-existence between Israel and the Palestinians.
Brazil has a large Jewish community and a large Palestinian community. The two generally manage to get along.
Brazil was one of the 33 countries that in November 1947 voted in the United Nations General Assembly in favor of the partition of Palestine, and was among the first countries to recognize Israel in 1948.
The two countries enjoy strong military and economic cooperation.
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