In a step that is expected to indicate a shift in his country's policy toward Israel, new President Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva has dismissed Brazil's Ambassador to Israel, General Gerson Menandro Garcia de Freitas. This dismissal was signed by Minister of Foreign Affairs Mauro Vieira in one of the first major steps taken by Brazil's newly-elected president since taking office. The minister explained that Ambassador Freitas was a general in the Brazilian Army with no previous diplomatic experience.
Freitas was appointed as ambassador to the occupation state by former President Jair Bolsonaro in September 2020. The one-time head of the Military Command at the Presidential Palace was the manager of Institutional and Governmental Relations at the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (Apex-Brasil) before being named ambassador.
"Brazil's Ambassador to Israel played a role in deepening the relations between his country and Israel during the Bolsonaro era," local media have reported. "These ties saw Bolsonaro announce his intention to move the Brazilian Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem."
Indeed, under Bolsonaro, Brazil became Israel's new best friend. He asked the apartheid state for help during the coronavirus pandemic and raised the Israeli flag in public. His presidency took a different approach towards relations with Israel, steering the country away from the policies of previous left-leaning governments. The impact was even felt at the UN.
"The dismissed ambassador had a role in the decision that Brazil's representatives at the UN did not vote in favour of the Palestinian proposal to obtain the opinion of the International Court of Justice regarding the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories," reported Globo Newspaper.
It was a pleasure to host Brazil's Ambassador to Israel, Gerson Menandro Garcia de Freitas & his team. We reiterated the excellent relations between our countries & discussed opportunities to expand our defense collaboration. pic.twitter.com/mxIlFQ38TG
— בני גנץ – Benny Gantz (@gantzbe) July 22, 2021
Lula´s decision to dismiss Freitas takes us back to the government of the Workers' Party (2003-2016) when Brazil adopted a remarkable stance towards Israel's 2014 military offensive against the Palestinians in Gaza. At the time, the Brazilian foreign ministry condemned the "disproportionate" force used by Israel and recalled the ambassador from Tel Aviv for consultations. When Brazil described what was happening in Gaza at that time as a massacre, the Israeli foreign ministry responded by calling the South American country a "diplomatic dwarf". The following year, Brazil rejected Dani Dayan's nomination as Israeli Ambassador to Brasilia because of his senior position in the Yesha Council, the representative body of Israel's illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.
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Earlier this week, Bolsonaro's supporters stormed Brazil's Congress, Supreme Court and Presidential Palace in Brasília in scenes resembling the insurrection at the US Capitol two years ago. Many countries have condemned the protestors' violence and expressed support for the Brazilian authorities, including the United States, France, Germany, China, India and Russia, calling the act a direct attack on democracy.
In Israel, however, one journalist described the attack as a "curse" because Lula supports the people of occupied Palestine. "The curse of the Palestinian cause haunts everyone who sympathises with this fake cause," tweeted Edy Cohen. "Now it is the turn of the President of Brazil, Lula da Silva. Hundreds of Brazilians stormed his palace and parliament, and the coming is greater."
It was no surprise, therefore, to see some of Bolsonaro's supporters wearing the blue and white colours of the Israeli flag that have come to symbolise the strong friendship of the extreme right-wing Bolsonaro and his equally far-right allies in Israel.
لعنة القضية الفلسطينية تلاحق كل من يتعاطف مع هذه القضية المزيفة. والان دور رئيس البرازيل لولا دا سيلفا. مئات من البرازيليين احتلوا قصره والبرلمان. والقادم اعظم.
ابعدوا من الشر يا عرب pic.twitter.com/iJwODOkaef
— إيدي كوهين אדי כהן 🇮🇱 (@EdyCohen) January 9, 2023
With the dismissal of the Brazilian ambassador to Israel setting the tone, it is reasonable to assume that support for Palestine will be a pillar of the new Lula government.
READ: Brazil Ambassador visits the Gaza Strip amid a warm welcome
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.