Israeli foreign minister reportedly boycotts Brazilian President's visit

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2007.
Image: Agencia Brasil.

Israel's foreign minister has reportedly boycotted Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's tour of the Middle East. Avigdor Lieberman did not attend Lula's address at the Knesset or his meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. According to close sources, Lieberman refused to attend over President Lula's refusal to visit and to lay a wreath on the grave of Zionist movement founder Theodor Herzl.

Israel created a policy to honour Herzl's 150th birthday by having all visiting heads of state lay a wreath on his grave, however Lula's staff said they were only informed a week before his visit when his schedule had already been planned.

Treasurer of the World Zionist Movement Haggai Merom said that Lula's actions were an "insult to Israel's citizens and to Zionist communities around the world, including to the Jewish community in Brazil." He also compared his refusal to visit Herzl's grave to refusing to visit "the grave of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in Turkey or the tomb of Mahatma Gandhi in India."

During his visit, Lula confirmed to President Shimon Peres that Israel had been accepted as the first non-South American partner in the free trade group, Mercosur.

Lula is also visiting the Palestinian territories and Jordan, and in May he will visit Iran.