Netanyahu Meets Bolsonaro in Brazil; Israeli Official: We Don't Have Luxury of Being Purists

Brazil's president-elect, who has lashed out at women, the gay community and minorities, says he plans to visit Israel and deepen ties

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left center, is received by Brazil's President-elect Jair Bolsonaro at the military base Fort Copacabana, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Dec. 28, 2018.
Leo Correa/Pool Photo via AP

RIO DE JANEIRO – Israel does not have the luxury of being able to "hunker down in our fortress of purity," a senior political official told reporters about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's diplomatic overture to Brazilian President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, who has frequently lashed out at women, the LGBTQ community and minorities.

"Netanyahu has his own positions and no one can diminish them, both regarding women and regarding gays," the official said as Netanyahu held a meeting with Bolsonaro in Rio de Janeiro. "He is liberal in these matters, and it's not just political correctness. Animals, for example. But our relations with countries like Brazil is important. We do not have the privilege of hunkering down in our fortress of purity."

The official also touted Brazil's economic power. "If Bolsonaro does the basic cthings he talked about in his campaign, if he opens the market, there will be a major leap forward," the official said. Israel hopes Brazil will soon move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the official  added. 

Following his meeting with Netanyahu, Bolsonaro said he plans to visit Israel and deepen ties. 

Incendiary statements

Bolsonaro said in 2013 that “Brazilians don’t like gays.” Two years earlier he remarked 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.

Benjamin Netanyahu is splashed all over a new Brazilian stamp

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 civil war broke out and the army intervened. “If a few innocents die, that’s okay,” he added.

Netanyahu landed in Brazil on Friday to meet with Bolsonaro, and is also expected to hold meetings with the heads of the Jewish community in Brazil. 

He is then scheduled to to depart for Brasilia to attend Bolsonaro's swearing-in ceremony and meet other guests, including the leaders of Chile and Honduras, as well as American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.