Brazil's President Bolsonaro to Visit Israel Days Before Election

Netanyahu and Bolsonaro have previously discussed the possibility of moving the Brazilian embassy during a December meeting in Brazil

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands before a lunch in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, December 28, 2018.
Agencia Brasil/Reuters

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro will visit Israel on March 31, days ahead of the April 9 Knesset election

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Brazil in December to meet with Bolsonaro and representatives of Brazil’s Jewish community.

Bolsonaro will visit Israel after Netanyahu returns from Washington on a trip to the AIPAC conference. The Israeli premier will also meet U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington.

>> Read more: In Brazil, Netanyahu offers Brother Bolsonaro a little 'help' with his leftist dissidents | Opinion 

While in Brazil, Israeli officials discussed a drone sale with President Jair Bolsonaro, according to a senior diplomatic source. Netanyahu hopes Bolsonaro will move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In exchange, Israel is expected to offer information and procurement opportunities to assist Bolsonaro’s flagship project, domestic security.

Bolsonaro, 63, is a controversial figure in Brazil, including among the Jewish community. 

He was born in Sao Paulo to parents of Italian extraction. He served in the Brazilian army and was elected to Rio’s city council, then to Congress.

He frequently lashes out at women, the gay community and minorities. In 2013 he said that “Brazilians don’t like gays.” Two years earlier he said that if his son were gay, he would no longer be able to love him, adding: “I’d rather my son die in an accident than show up with some guy with a mustache.” In 2002 he said that if he saw two men kissing in the street, he’d slap them.

Bolsonaro often speaks nostalgically about Brazil’s former military dictatorship and supports torture. In 1999, he said that it would be impossible to change anything in Brazil just by voting, and that things would change only if a civil war broke out and the army intervened. “If a few innocents die, that’s okay,” he added.

At a campaign rally in Sao Paulo, the Brazilian president said he would jail his political opponents. “This group, if they want to stay, will have to obey our laws,” he said, adding that “either they stay abroad or they’ll go to jail.”