FM snubs Lula over Herzl wreath row

Lieberman stays away from Brazilian president's Knesset address, boycotts meeting.

avigdor lieberman 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
avigdor lieberman 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman stayed away from the Knesset duringBrazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s address there onMonday, to protest Lula da Silva’s refusal to lay a wreath at the graveof Theodor Herzl, sources close to Lieberman said on Monday evening.
Liebermanalso boycotted a meeting between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu andhis guest afterward to which he had been invited.
This policy,however, did not filter down to the Foreign Ministry staff, whothroughout the day were downplaying the incident, saying the Brazilianpresident’s decision not to lay a wrath at Herzl’s tomb on Monday wasdue more to confusion over protocol than anything else.
AForeign Ministry spokesman said that Israel only informed Lula, as theBrazilian president is commonly referred, of the wreath laying ceremonylast week, after the schedule had been meticulously planned weeks inadvance.
Only last week, she explained, did Israel initiate apolicy to honor Theodor Herzl’s 150th birthday by having all visitingheads of state lay a wreath at his grave.
The Brazilians, thespokeswoman said, did not understand why they were being asked to dosomething that other leaders had not been asked to do.
US VicePresident Joe Biden did lay a wreath at Herzl’s grave, initiating thenew policy that was in effect until 1994, but then lapsed when manyvisiting leaders preferred to pay their respects at the nearby grave ofslain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin instead.
Nevertheless, World Zionist Organization treasurer Haggai Merom issueda statement saying Lula da Silva’s action was “an insult to Israel’scitizens and to Zionist communities around the world, including to theJewish community in Brazil.”
Avoiding putting a wreath atHerzl’s grave during a state visit, Merom said, “is the same asrefusing to visit the graves of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in Turkey or thetomb of Mahatma Gandhi in India.”
Lula da Silva is expect tovisit the tomb of Yasser Arafat during a visit to Ramallah on Tuesdayfor a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.