JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s prime minister warmly received President Jair Bolsonaro Sunday, on the Brazilian leader’s first state visit to Israel.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s red carpet welcome for Bolsonaro comes days ahead of a tough re-election bid for the long-time Israeli premier on April 9.
The Brazilian president is widely expected during his three-day trip to decide whether to follow President Donald Trump’s lead and move the Brazilian Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move he has repeatedly promised.
The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war, as the capital of a future state. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital, including the eastern sector.
The two leaders, wearing matching blue ties as they surveyed an Israeli color guard, touted the forging of closer ties. Netanyahu addressed Bolsonaro as a “good friend” and said Israel and Brazil have entered “a new era” of relations.
The Brazilian leader opened his speech after landing with the words “I love Israel” in Hebrew.
“My government is firmly decided to strengthen the partnership between Brazil and Israel,” Bolsonaro added.
Netanyahu has faced criticism for courting the friendship of authoritarian leaders, such as Hungary’s Victor Orban, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte, in his push for closer ties around the globe.
Bolsonaro has drawn criticism for making disparaging remarks about gays, women, indigenous groups and blacks during his 28-year career as a Brazilian congressman. Rights groups have expressed concern about the new administration’s hardline approach to security and protection for police officers who commit crimes.
Israeli activists protested outside the airport after Bolsonaro landed, raising a rainbow flag with the words “The Holy Land doesn’t want homophobes here” in Portuguese.