(photo credit: Associated Press)
The battle for Latin America between pro-Israel and pro- Palestinian factions is
set to enter a new phase on Friday when Palestinians hold a cornerstone- laying
ceremony for an embassy in the Brazilian capital of Brasilia, the first
state-level Palestinian diplomatic mission on the continent.
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Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to take part in the event and
later attend the swearing-in ceremony of Brazilian President-elect Dilma
Rousseff, AFP reported.
Members of Brazil’s Jewish community on Wednesday
responded to recent developments by reiterating their position that unilaterally
recognizing a Palestinian state had a negative effect on talks between Israel
and the Palestinians.
“Most Jews in Brazil believe the Palestinians have
the right to a state and that the two can live side by side with security, but
they also believe the Brazilian position is not helping to achieve that
outcome,” Ricardo Berkensztat, deputy head of Fedaraco Israelita de Estado de
Sao Paulo, told The Jerusalem Post
. “We believe peace can be obtained only
Brazil has a small but tightly- knit Jewish
population of approximately 100,000 – the second largest in Latin America –
which is concentrated chiefly in Sao Paulo and several other
Brazilian Jews are relatively affluent and have considerable
political clout. However, the left-leaning government headed by the outgoing
President Lula de Silva has traditionally been sympathetic to the Palestinian
cause and in recent years has grown closer to countries hostile to Israel such
Earlier this month, Brazil became the first country in the
region to recognize a Palestinian state, and a string of neighbors followed
Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador joined the declaration, Uruguay said
it will recognize a Palestinian state in 2011, and pro-Israel and pro- Palestine
factions in Chile are currently slugging it out over whether the government
there should join its neighbors.
The Brazilian Foreign Ministry said the
recognition was in response to a request made by Abbas to Silva a month
Silva sent a letter to Abbas on December 1, saying Brazil
recognizes Palestine and hopes that the recognition will help lead to states of
Israel and Palestine “that will coexist peacefully and in security.”
Brazilian Foreign Ministry said that the recognition is “in line with Brazil’s
historic willingness to contribute to peace between Israel and
The declarations by Latin American governments recognizing a
Palestinian state caught some Jewish communities in the region by
When news first emerged that Brazil had recognized a
Palestinian state, the Confedaraco Israelita do Brasil (CONIB), the umbrella
group for the local Jewish community, chose to remain silent.
President Claudio Lottenberg said his decision was made in light of the reaction
to previous criticism of the Brazilian president’s relationship with his Iranian
counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has denied the Holocaust and called for
Israel to be wiped off the map.
“If I decided to criticize I will make it
more important than it is,” Lottenberg said over the phone on
“From the moment Lula decided to become a friend with
Ahmadinejad I told him I could not accept such a president who has a
relationship with such an awful person.
“At that moment our friendship
became weaker. If I criticized him again then it would have weakened
We respect Lula, but his time as president is over.”
believe Lula’s decision in the last days of his presidency was aimed at getting
support from the Arab and Muslim world for an eventual bid to become secretary-
general of the United Nations.
Either way, both Lottenberg and
Berkensztat said they were looking forward to working with his succesor,
Rousseff, who they believed will be less outspoken on international affairs than
“I recognize that something can change,” Lottenberg
“I think this is a new opportunity for us to establish a
relationship that hasn’t been damaged.”