Bolsonaro meets Netanyahu in effort to bolster Brazil-Israel ties

Latin America

Bolsonaro to meet Netanyahu in effort to bolster Brazil-Israel ties

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro begins a three-day visit to Israel Sunday. It’s part of the new government’s push to strengthen bilateral ties. It’s led to concerns in Brazil that a shift toward Israel could threaten relations with Arab states.

CGTN’s Paulo Cabral reports from Sao Paulo.

It’s no secret that President Bolsonaro sees Israel as an ally in world politics. For his part, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered Bolsonaro a nod of approval by attending his inauguration.

Netanyahu has also signaled a willingness to cooperate with the new leader. One clear expression of their relationship’s heightened status was the sending of an Israeli team to help in rescue efforts, after the Brumadinho Dam Disaster in late January.

However, some analysts have said closer ties with Israel carries risks for Brazil.

“This is an alliance based above all in ideology, as it’s supported by the more anti-globalist, right-wing sectors of the government, but it could cause economic problems in the short and medium term,” said David Magalhaes, a professor of International Relations for FAAP. “Our commercial relations with Arabic countries are much more significant than they are with Israel.”

Brazil’s Ministry of Economy reports that the country’s exports to Israel totaled $321 million last year. That’s just over two percent of its total exports to all Middle-Eastern and North-African nations. Those exports topped $14.5 billion.

Political support for Bolsonaro’s shift toward Israel is very strong among conservative Christian groups, which have been rising in importance and influence in Brazilian politics in recent years.

Bolsonaro’s controversial talk of moving Brazil’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is widely seen as targeting the president’s evangelical Christian base. Though recently, he’s backed off the promise, saying his government may instead open a “business office” in Jerusalem.