Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, his wife Michelle Bolsonaro, and the wife of the PM Sara Netanyahu .
(photo credit: AVI OHAYON - GPO)
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, who has said he will move his country’s embassy to Jerusalem, will visit Israel just days before the April 9 elections, the Foreign Ministry announced on Thursday.
According to the ministry’s list of expected visitors in March, Bolsonaro is due to arrive on March 31 and leave on April 4. Israel’s Knesset elections are set to take place on April 9.
Bolsonaro’s visit, which would be the first since president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva became the first-ever Brazilian leader to visit in March 2010, is widely expected to be used by the Netanyahu campaign to underscore his diplomatic experience and successes in forging relations around the world.
Over much of the last two decades, Brazil has been unstintingly pro-Palestinian and often among the most critical of Israel in international forums – a pattern Bolsonaro said he will change.
His visit is scheduled soon after Netanyahu’s expected return from Washington, where he will address the annual AIPAC policy conference and is expected to meet President Donald Trump. The conference will run from March 24-26.
Netanyahu flew to Brazil at the end of December to take part in the right-wing president’s inauguration. Following his visit, Netanyahu said Israel has “a new ally” in Brazil under Bolsonaro. He said the Brazilian president made clear when they met in Rio de Janeiro that the embassy move was not a question of “if,” but rather “when.”
Bolsonaro said at that meeting that he wants to be more than Netanyahu’s friend.
“I want to be his brother,” he said. “I believe that other countries will respect Brazil more when it recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”
In embracing Bolsonaro, Netanyahu has steered clear of any reservations regarding the Brazilian president’s controversial positions – opponents accuse him of an authoritarian streak – or disparaging comments he has made in the past about gays, women and minorities.
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