Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman stayed away from the Knesset during
Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s address there on
Monday, to protest Lula da Silva’s refusal to lay a wreath at the grave
of Theodor Herzl, sources close to Lieberman said on Monday evening.
also boycotted a meeting between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and
his guest afterward to which he had been invited.
however, did not filter down to the Foreign Ministry staff, who
throughout the day were downplaying the incident, saying the Brazilian
president’s decision not to lay a wrath at Herzl’s tomb on Monday was
due more to confusion over protocol than anything else.
Foreign Ministry spokesman said that Israel only informed Lula, as the
Brazilian president is commonly referred, of the wreath laying ceremony
last week, after the schedule had been meticulously planned weeks in
Only last week, she explained, did Israel initiate a
policy to honor Theodor Herzl’s 150th birthday by having all visiting
heads of state lay a wreath at his grave.
The Brazilians, the
spokeswoman said, did not understand why they were being asked to do
something that other leaders had not been asked to do.
President Joe Biden did lay a wreath at Herzl’s grave, initiating the
new policy that was in effect until 1994, but then lapsed when many
visiting leaders preferred to pay their respects at the nearby grave of
slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin instead.
Nevertheless, World Zionist Organization treasurer Haggai Merom issued
a statement saying Lula da Silva’s action was “an insult to Israel’s
citizens and to Zionist communities around the world, including to the
Jewish community in Brazil.”
Avoiding putting a wreath at
Herzl’s grave during a state visit, Merom said, “is the same as
refusing to visit the graves of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in Turkey or the
tomb of Mahatma Gandhi in India.”
Lula da Silva is expect to
visit the tomb of Yasser Arafat during a visit to Ramallah on Tuesday
for a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.