President Jair Bolsonaro awarded PM Benjamin Netanyahu Brazil's highest national award for high-ranking guests. (Avi Ohayon/GPO) (Avi Ohayon/GPO)
PM Netanyahu and Brazilian President-elect Bolsonaro

“Today we are forging a great alliance with a huge power of almost 250 million people, which is turning a new page with us,” Netanyahu said of Israel’s relations with Brazil.

By: AP and United with Israel Staff

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened the first-ever visit to Brazil by a leader of Israel on Friday, saying he hopes for a strong partnership between the two countries.

Netanyahu came for President-elect Jair Bolsonaro’s inauguration Jan. 1 but arrived several days early in Rio de Janeiro to meet with the incoming leader and several other top members of the new administration.

Netanyahu invited Bolsonaro to visit Israel, and he accepted. They agreed to tighten economic, security, water management, agricultural and technological cooperation.

The two men’s first interaction was at lunch in Copacabana Fort followed by a visit to a local synagogue.

“Through our mutual cooperation, enormous benefits will be created for our two peoples,” Netanyahu stated following the meeting.

Bolsonaro: ‘More Than Partners, We Will Be Brothers’

Bolsonaro said he wants to increase economic and security bonds between Brazil and Israel. “More than partners, we will be brothers,” he said.

Bolsonaro awarded Netanyahu Brazil’s highest and most important national award for high-ranking guests, which was previously granted to former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Queen Elizabeth II.

“It’s the first visit by an Israeli prime minister to Brazil ever. It’s hard to believe that we had no such contact before. Because the brotherhood, the alliance that you mentioned is real and can carry us to great heights,” Netanyahu stated.

“Israel is the Promised Land; Brazil is the land of promise. And you’ve been given the stewardship of this country to realize that promise,” he told Bolsonaro.

“This is a historic visit, the first time that a prime minister of Israel has visited Brazil. Today we are forging a great alliance with a huge power of almost 250 million people, which is turning a new page with us, with cooperation that will help the citizens of both countries in employment, their economies, technology, security and Israel’s international position. I think that this is an additional expression of Israel as a rising global power,” he said.

Netanyahu and his wife Sara will be staying in Rio until Tuesday, when they will fly to Brasilia for the inauguration. The prime minister is expected to also meet with other foreign delegations attending the ceremony, including US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Similar Views on Security Issues

Brazil and Israel have previously had cordial but strained relations.

The leftist Workers’ Party, which dominated Brazilian politics for 13 years before Bolsonaro’s election, was biased toward the Palestinians, but Bolsonaro and Netanyahu have developed an increasingly warm relationship with similar views on security issues.

Netanyahu announced his trip to Brazil following a Nov. 1 tweet from Bolsonaro indicating he intends to move the Brazilian Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The move angered several Arab states, which threatened to boycott halal meat from Brazil, the world’s top exporter.

In preparation for his tenure as president, Bolsonaro has sent aides to Israel to study desalination technology and to investigate the potential purchase of drones for use by Brazilian security forces.

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