Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [R] with US Secretary of state Mike Pompeo [L]. .
(photo credit: AVI OHAYON - GPO)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw 2,000 troops from Syria “in no way changes anything that this administration is working on alongside Israel.”
“The counter-ISIS campaign continues,” said Pompeo before a meeting with Netanyahu in Brasilia, where they both attended the inauguration of new Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. “Our efforts to counter Iranian aggression continue, and our commitment to Middle East stability and the protection of Israel continues in the same way it did before that decision was made.”
This was the second meeting between Netanyahu and Pompeo in a month. Netanyahu flew to Brussels on December 3 to meet Pompeo, who was there for a NATO meeting, a day before Israel announced its Operation Northern Shield
to uncover and destroy Hezbollah tunnels in the North.
Pompeo on Tuesday praised Israel for the IDF operation.
“You all have done good work in Operation Northern Shield,” he said. “We understand the threat that violation of Israeli sovereignty presents to the region and to the country – the threat from Iranian Hezbollah – and we’ll work closely together to make sure that we get this right.”
Netanyahu said he and Pompeo had much to talk about, and they were going to have discussions about “the intense cooperation between Israel and the United States, which will also deal with the questions following the decision, the American decisions on Syria, [and] how to intensify even further our intelligence and operations cooperation in Syria and elsewhere to block Iranian aggression in the Middle East. That’s a common aim.”
Netanyahu said that he was “very appreciative of the strong support that you and the president gave our efforts at self-defense against Syria just in the last few days.”
US State Department deputy spokesman Robert Palladino said the two discussed “the unacceptable threat that regional aggression and provocation by Iran and its agents pose to Israeli and regional security. The secretary reiterated the United States’s commitment to Israel’s security and unconditional right to self-defense.”
Following the meeting, both men – along with a number of other world leaders, including Hungary’s right-wing President Viktor Orban and Bolivia’s left-wing President Juan Evo Morales – took part in the swearing-in ceremony. After Bolsonaro was sworn in, according to the Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu was the first person he embraced.
Bolsonaro was inaugurated as the country’s 38th president, in a ceremony full of pomp and pageantry in front of tens of thousands of people in the Brazilian capital of Brasilia.
Addressing a joint session of Brazil’s Congress minutes after taking the oath of office, Bolsonaro, a former army captain and admirer of the country’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship, vowed to adhere to democratic norms.
He said his government would be guided by the promises he made to Brazilian voters fed up with high levels of violent crime and a still-sputtering economy.
“I will work tirelessly so that Brazil reaches its destiny,” Bolsonaro said after being sworn in. “My vow is to strengthen Brazil’s democracy.”
On the economic front, the new leader promised to “create a new virtuous cycle to open markets” and “carry out important structural reforms” to shore up a yawning public deficit.
Bolsonaro, 63, was a seven-term fringe congressman who rode a wave of anti-establishment anger to become Brazil’s first far-right president since a military dictatorship gave way to civilian rule three decades ago.
Bolsonaro plans to realign Brazil internationally, moving away from developing-nation allies and closer to the policies of Western leaders, particularly Trump. He has also said that he will move the country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, representing a major shift from the pro-Palestinian policies of the leftist Worker’s Party that controlled the country for much of the last 15 years.
Crowds of supporters, many with the Brazilian flag draped around their shoulders and with faces painted the national colors of yellow and green, gathered before the Planalto Palace, where the presidential sash was draped on Bolsonaro. A number of large Israeli flags were also seen in the crowd.
Backed massively by conservative sectors of Brazil, including Christian Evangelical churches, Bolsonaro would block moves to legalize abortion beyond even the current limited exceptions and remove sex education from public schools, opposing what he calls “cultural Marxism” introduced by recent leftist governments.
One-third of his cabinet are former army officers, mostly fellow cadets at the Black Needles Academy, Brazil’s West Point, all outspoken backers of the country’s 1964-1985 military regime.
Bolsonaro has faced charges of inciting rape and for hate crimes because of comments about women, gays and racial minorities. Yet his law-and-order rhetoric and plans to ease gun control have resonated with many voters, especially in Brazil’s booming farm country.Netanyahu met the presidents of Honduras, Chile, Cape Verde and Serbia, as well as Hungary's Orban, on the sidelines of the inaugural ceremonies, and also participated in a reception for heads of government before flying back to Israel early Wednesday morning.
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