LOD, Israel – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro embarked on Sunday on a four-day official visit to Israel, a country for which he has repeatedly expressed his admiration.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed Bolsonaro with a guard of honor upon his arrival at Tel Aviv Ben Gurion International Airport.
“In January (when Netanyahu traveled to Brazil to attend Bolsonaro’s inauguration), we opened a new era in our relations, and after just three months, you come to Israel to take our relations to a higher level,” the Israeli premier said.
Bolsonaro, who heads the largest Brazilian delegation to visit Israel, called Israel a country with a lot of potential that could also be useful for Israeli people.
In a speech full of religious references, the Brazilian president recalled a trip to Israel in 2016 when he was baptized in the Jordan River, and pointed out he was making his current visit after his government “firmly decided” to strengthen ties with Israel.
“The Israelis and Brazilians share values, cultural traditions, appreciation of freedom and democracy ... We have to take advantage of the potential of our relations and that is what we are going to do in this visit,” he said.
Nearly a hundred local and international journalists witnessed the landing of Bolsonaro.
Bolsonaro is set to meet with Netanyahu at 5:00 pm to sign bilateral agreements on a range of topics, including science and technology, defense, public safety, aviation, health and medicine.
Both leaders are scheduled afterwards to hold a working meeting that will be followed by a dinner.
In the coming days, Bolsonaro will meet businessmen, political representatives and members of the Brazilian community in Israel.
He will also visit Yad Vashem, Israel’s largest Holocaust memorial, as well as holy sites in Jerusalem such as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the most sacred site to Christians, and the Western Wall, the most sacred site to Jewish worshippers.
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Western Wall are located in the occupied East Jerusalem, but they have been included in the president’s official visit to Israel, which led to protests by the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Although there has been no official confirmation, it is expected that Bolsonaro, who has shown public sympathy for Israel and Netanyahu, would announce the opening of a business office in Jerusalem, a step that could lead to the possible relocation of the Brazilian Embassy in Israel to the holy city.
This visit comes ahead of Israel’s general elections, scheduled on April 9.