When Donald J. Trump stunned the world by becoming president of the United States, Israel was one of the few nations to offer genuine congratulations. The rest of the international community harshly censured America for electing what it saw as a hardline right-wing extremist.
That recent history was repeated this week with Brazil’s election of hardline right-winger Jair Bolsonaro as its new president.
Bolsonaro has been widely criticized for perceived misogynist, racist and authoritarian views. But, he’s also staunchly pro-Israel.
During his election campaign, Bolsonaro actually echoed Trump in his statements of support for and promises regarding the Jewish state. He promised to make Israel one of his first visits abroad as president, and to move Brazil’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Now that he’s president, Bolsonaro said he still intends to visit Israel very soon, and will still consider favorably moving Brazil’s embassy, though that could be complicated by the South American nation’s strong trade relations with the Arab world.
In the meantime, Israel’s leadership is thrilled that this man reviled by most of the rest of the international community is the new president of one of the world’s largest nations.
“I am certain that your election will lead to a great friendship between our nations and to a strengthening of Israel-Brazil ties,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Bolsonaro during a telephone conversation between the two leaders on Monday.
“Warm greetings to my friend Jair Bolsonaro for his election to the presidency of Brazil,” said Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein in a statement released to the press.
Also like Trump, Bolsonaro has taken a decidedly critical position vis-a-vis the Palestinians. During the presidential campaign, he vowed to downgrade Palestinian representation in Brazil, stating, “Is Palestine a country? Palestine is not a country, so there should be no embassy here.” He also suggested that the reason Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have thus far failed is because the latter remain terrorists.
PHOTO: Much as in America, support for Israel has become a major electoral campaign issue in Brazil. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)