RIO DE JANEIRO – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened the first visit to Brazil by a leader of Israel on Friday, saying he hopes for a strong partnership between the two countries.
Netanyahu came for President-elect Jair Bolsonaro's inauguration Jan. 1, but arrived several days early in Rio de Janeiro to meet with the incoming far-right leader and several other top members of the new administration.
The two men's first interaction was at lunch in Copacabana Fort. They then visited a local synagogue.
"Through our mutual cooperation, enormous benefits will be created for our two peoples," Netanyahu said following their meeting.
Bolsonaro said he wants to increase economic and security bonds between Brazil and Israel. "More than partners, we will be brothers," he said.
Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, will be staying in Rio until Tuesday, when they will fly to Brasilia for the inauguration. The prime minister is expected to also meet with other foreign delegations attending the ceremony, including U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pomeo.
Brazil and Israel have previously had cordial but strained relations.
The leftist Workers Party, which had dominated Brazilian politics for 13 years before Bolsonaro's election, often showed support for the Palestinian independence movement. But Bolsonaro and Netanyahu have developed an increasingly warm relationship with similar views on security issues.
Netanyahu announced his trip to Brazil following a Nov. 1 tweet from Bolsonaro indicating he intends to move the Brazilian Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The move angered several Arab states, which threatened to boycott halal meat from Brazil, the world's top exporter.
In preparation for his tenure as president, Bolsonaro has sent aides to Israel to study desalination technology and to investigate the potential purchase of drones for use by Brazilian security forces.