Avigdor Lieberman 248.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The government is extending a diplomatic hand to South and Central America.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon have both made the area a priority.
Lieberman plans to visit Brazil later this month, the ministry's deputy spokesman Andy David said on Wednesday. "Visits to South America were long overdue," he said.
The ministry has been enlarging the staff of the embassy in Brasilia, is in the process of reopening a consulate in Sao Paulo, and is focusing on developing a schedule that works with and involves visits to Latin America, David said.
Last month, Ayalon attended a meeting in Honduras of the Organization of American States. According to Ayalon's press secretary, Ashley Perry, Ayalon was the highest-ranking Israeli official to ever visit the organization.
"It shows that Israel is focusing on places like Latin America," Perry said. "Israel wants to reach out to places in South America that have been ignored. It shows this administration's views that Latin America should be put back on the agenda."
Also last month, the Foreign Ministry and the Knesset hosted a conference for diplomats in Israel and 26 leaders from 13 Latin countries. The conference lasted four days and was aimed at exposing legislators to Israel and regional issues.
David said funds have been budgeted to increase outreach and diplomatic activity in Latin America.
This type of public diplomacy is very important to build economic ties with developing markets, he said.
While there are concerns about anti-Semitism and rising Iranian influence in some areas of Latin America, David said, "South America has had a tradition of countries who have always been friendly to Israel, and we should not forget them."