June 1, 2024 | Flash Brief

Amid Tensions With Israel, Brazil Withdraws Ambassador

June 1, 2024 | Flash Brief

Amid Tensions With Israel, Brazil Withdraws Ambassador

Latest Developments

Brazil recalled its ambassador to Israel, the government announced in its official gazette on May 29. In February, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, also known as Lula, compared Israel’s actions against Hamas to those of the Nazis, claiming that the only historical parallel for the current fighting was “when Hitler decided to kill the Jews.” The following day, Israel’s Foreign Minister summoned Brazilian Ambassador Frederico Meyer to a meeting at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Israel’s national memorial to the Holocaust, where he reprimanded the ambassador. Lula recalled and ultimately reassigned Meyer without appointing a replacement.

Expert Analysis

“Last February, when Brazil’s president Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva compared Israel to Nazi Germany, Israel declared him persona non grata, deflating his ambitions to play a role on the world stage. Rather than walking back his outrageous remarks, Lula doubled down and recalled his ambassador to Israel. He has now sent the ambassador to a new post in Geneva, permanently downgrading bilateral relations with Israel. This decision changes little, substantially, but it bolsters a worrying trend for Israel in Latin America, where leftist leaders are, one by one, not only embracing the Palestinian cause but also siding with Hamas.” — Emanuele Ottolenghi, FDD Senior Fellow

“Demonization has replaced diplomacy in Brazil’s attitude towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as is also sadly the case with several other governments in Latin America. A government that aligns so openly with the rhetoric and aims of a murderous Islamist organization like Hamas is not just a danger to Israel, but to democracy itself.” — Ben CohenFDD Senior Analyst and Rapid Response Manager

Increased Tensions in Latin America

Lula’s assumption of office in 2023 marked a sharp divergence from the pro-Israel policies of his predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro. Israel’s relations with several other Latin American countries have deteriorated amid the Gaza war, with Belize and Bolivia severing ties with Israel soon after the conflict began. Chile, Colombia, and Honduras meanwhile recalled their ambassadors.

These tensions have seeped into proceedings at international bodies. In January, Mexico and Chile urged the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel over possible crimes against civilians. At the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Colombia and Mexico filed interventions supporting the accusation that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza, a charge the Biden administration has deemed “meritless.” Nicaragua filed a separate case at the ICJ seeking to have the court order Germany to stop exporting weapons to Israel.

On May 27, President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, which severed relations with Israel in 2009, called Israel’s counter-Hamas operations “one of the most horrific genocides that humanity has witnessed since the time of Hitler,” repeating the genocide allegation that he has made since October 9, just two days after the Hamas atrocities in southern Israel.

Argentina, Paraguay Support Israel

Elsewhere in Latin America, Javier Millei’s election in Argentina has ushered in a tremendous improvement in relations between Jerusalem and Buenos Aires. Milei visited Israel on a solidarity tour in February and vowed to move the embassy to Jerusalem. In April, Argentina’s highest court blamed Iran and Hezbollah for a deadly attack on an Argentinean Jewish community center in 1994. In December, the speaker of the Paraguayan parliament, Raúl Luís Latorre Martinez, visited Israel and reiterated his government’s intention to return its embassy to Jerusalem.

Gustavo Petro’s Anti-Israel Fantasy Has a High Price for Colombia,” by Emanuele Ottolenghi

Nicaragua’s charade at the ICJ,” FDD Flash Brief

Israeli Embassy in Mexico City Attacked by Hamas Supporters as Government Requests to Join ICJ Case,” FDD Flash Brief

Issues:

International Organizations Israel