President Shimon Peres is scheduled to leave for South America on Monday for state visits to Brazil and Argentina.
His visit to Brazil will be just ahead of that of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is due to arrive there on November 23 at the invitation of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Ahmadinejad's visit is aimed at discussing bilateral and international relations and cooperation between Teheran and Brasilia at international and regional levels, according to the Farsi News Agency.
He had been scheduled to visit Brazil last May, but the trip was canceled following protests by left-wing demonstrators and major Jewish organizations, although that was not necessarily the reason.
Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, who visited Brazil last month, told Brazilian Senate President Jose Sarney, who is a former president of the country, that for Israel it was a very sorry situation that Brazil was willing to receive someone "who publicly states that he wants to destroy our country."
Metzger expressed the hope that Lulu would postpone or even call off Ahmadinejad's visit, but that seems unlikely.
Quoting Mir Qassem Momeni, head of the Iran-Brazil Friendship Association, said, according to the Farsi News Agency, that "development of ties with Brazil could be useful in resolving the existing problems between Latin America and the Middle East given Brazil's economic, political and cultural role in Latin America and Iran's role in Asia."
Similar considerations are prompting the visit of Peres, who will be the first Israeli president to visit Brazil in 40 years. He wants to strengthen and expand the strategic, political and economic ties between Israel and Brazil and Israel and Argentina and to foster closer cooperation between Israel and both of the South American countries. He will be the first Israeli head of state to visit Argentina in 20 years.
In the course of his meetings with the top leadership of both countries, Peres will emphasize the threat that Iran will pose to the world if it is permitted to continue with its nuclear program. Ahmadinejad's frequent calls for Israel's elimination will also factor in the discussions.
Peres, who is heading a large delegation that includes Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon (Likud), Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov (Israel Beiteinu) and 40 representatives of Israel's water technologies, agriculture, communications, energy, medical equipment, biotechnology, security and defense industries, will also participate in an inspection tour of Rio de Janeiro's Maracana stadium, which is the largest stadium in South America, and which will host the World Cup Final in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016. (Although the paid attendance at the final game of the 1950 FIFA World Cup was 199,854, the stadium currently seats 88,992 spectators.)
His Brazilian hosts will inform the president and his entourage of the preparations that are being made for both events, including the expansion of the stadium. Some of the work will provide enhanced opportunities for Brazilian-Israeli cooperation in the fields of infrastructure, communications and security.
Argentina and Brazil boast the two largest Jewish communities in South America - about 300,000 and 96,000, respectively - and each will be addressed by Peres in the course of his visit. A special memorial service will be held at the Israel Embassy in Buenos Aires in memory of the victims of the March 1992 bomb attack that was subsequently traced to Iran, Hizbullah and Syria. The blast, which destroyed the embassy, a nearby school and a Catholic Church claimed 29 lives. In addition 242 people were wounded.
Two years later, in July 1994, a bomb detonated in front of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires took the lives of 85 people and wounded more than 300. The evidence again pointed to Iran and Hizbullah, but no one was convicted.
The visit to South America has been coordinated between Beit Hanassi, the Israel Export Institute, the Israel Manufacturers Association, the Jewish Agency, the governments of Brazil and Argentina and the Jewish Federations of those countries.
On his return to Israel, Peres will bring with him some 30 new immigrants from Brazil and Argentina.
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