Lula da Silva, the most famous politician leader in Latin America, has triumphantly returned as Brazil´s President for the third time in a ceremony held at the National Congress in Brasília. Just one day after left-wing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva took office in January, Brazil has announced a fundamental shift in its diplomacy toward the Palestinian cause, where it has topped again at the forefront of Brazil's political scene, after years of absence due to Bolsonaro's pro-Israel policy.
Since the beginnings of Lula´s election campaign, he has declared that "Palestinians deserve Brazil´s full attention and solidarity". He stressed that the Palestinian people have the right to live in a "free and sovereign state", adding that he will work to re-establish the leading role of Brazilian foreign policy in the mediation of conflicts and of peoples' right to defend themselves.
Lula did not wait a long to fulfil his promise to the Palestinians, as he directly took steps that are expected to indicate a shift in his country's policy toward Israel and Palestine. "Our country will stand firm in its support of Palestinian rights and will work for the restoration of Palestine's freedom and independence within the 1967 borders." With these words, da Silva reaffirmed his principled commitment to support the Palestinian cause during his inauguration ceremony on 1 January.
At the reception ceremony for world leaders, Brazilian President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva assured the Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Affairs, Riyad Al-Maliki, that his country will stand firm in its support of Palestinian rights and will work for the restoration of Palestine's freedom and independence within the 1967 borders. Over a 40-minute conversation, President Lula said that his country still has the commitment to support the efforts of the State of Palestine in all international forums.
On the sidelines of the inauguration ceremony, Al-Maliki met members of the Palestinian community in Brazil and did some activities related to Palestinian-Brazilian relations. Al Maliki, Palestinian Ambassador in Brazil, and other members have planted an olive tree in front of the Palestinian Embassy building. "I'll leave Brazil very comfortable and happy with everything I've seen," Al-Maliki concluded his trip to Brazil with these words.
According to the Brazilian political analyst, Marcos Tenorio, Lula's support for the Palestinian cause since he came to power means that the "Palestinian issue will be at the forefront of the political scene in Brazil, in particular, and Latin America, generally. Brazil will return to the path of putting the Palestinian issue in international law eyes."
Tenorio also assured MEMO that "Brazil, from this moment, has become a strong ally to Palestine in its struggle for liberation, recognition and claiming of its rights at United Nations and the international forums." He completes, "Israel lost a lot with Lula´s return, as it has no longer supporters for its attacks against the Palestinian people. Brazilian foreign policy will not be directed towards voting against the Palestinians in international organisations anymore".
The radical change in Brazilian policy towards Israel was not limited inside the corridors of Brazilian government buildings only, but it extended to international forums, as well. Brazil had begun to vote in favour of Israel and against Palestine since the start of Bolsonaro's presidency in October 2018, after 15 years of regular voting for Palestine. With Bolsonaro, for the first time since the period of military dictatorship [1964-1985], this had changed, and Brazil had begun to vote in favour of Israel, against Palestinians.
On 5 January, Brazil's delegation condemned the storming Al-Aqsa Mosque by Israeli Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben Gvir, during a UN Security Council session. Brazil's delegation said the act was "profoundly alarming" and could increase violence in the region.
Furthermore, Lula's government has issued its first statement in foreign relations about Palestine and the protection of Islamic sanctities in Palestine. After three days of Inauguration of Lula as President, the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a statement expressing that such actions constitute a violation of the obligations of concern for mutual understanding, tolerance and peace. The statement included, "the Brazilian government requests respect of the Muslim holy places in Jerusalem in the light of international laws."
The statement also confirmed, "Brazil reiterates its commitment for supporting Palestine and its people. For this purpose, the Brazilian government urges procedures that may affect the necessary trust for the resumption of dialogue."
Lula had taken many measures in favour of Palestine during all his previous terms (2003-2016), including raising diplomatic representation between the two countries and allocating a plot of land near the Brazilian Presidential Palace for the Palestinian Embassy. Would we witness more steps for Palestine in Brazil and Latin America after Lula´s return to office? This is what the next days will reveal!
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.