A friendly connection between Brazil and Israel? This may sound controversial if you’ve been keeping yourself updated on what happens in Brazil by its mainstream media, especially during the presidential election.
Even though Jair Messias Bolsonaro, the country’s newly sworn-in president, was – and still is – constantly called a Nazi by the main media outlets in Brazil, he’s the only Brazilian president in recent history to acknowledge and respect what Israel thinks to be its best interests, like recognizing Jerusalem as the country’s capital.
The two countries have maintained diplomatic relations for almost 70 years, most of which is based on commercial agreements. But since 1989,
with the beginning of what we know as the “New Republic” in Brazil, every president has supported Arab countries and their interests, made alliances with some of the world’s worst dictators, like Lula did with Gaddafi, and recognized Palestine as a legitimate territory.
“Is it a problem to have a good relationship with Arab countries?” Definitely not. Their cultural background isn’t the point of disappointment with what has happened over the past 20 years, it’s about their ideology. After going through over twenty years of a military regime, Brazil was left to be taken care of by some of the most corrupt people in the country.
Fernando Collor de Mello, Itamar Franco, Fernando Henrique Cardoso (FHC), Luiz (Lula) da Silva, Dilma Rousseff and Michel Temer: these are the names of the presidents who were in charge since 1989. What do they have in common? Corruption and socialism, from Marx to the Fabian Society, in their backgrounds. The first two presidents were – if you allow me to say that without cringing – “just corrupt”. But when FHC became the country’s Commander-in-chief, he added socialism to the formula and started the downfall that brought Brazil to where it is now.
The union between socialism and corruption is not only the key to understand Brazil’s bad reputation right now, but also to understand why the presidents, especially Lula and Dilma, decided to make alliances with the Arab world and leave Israel as a simple commercial partner. That corrupt ideology is what made them, both from the PT (Worker’s Party), become allies with countries like Syria. And that era, according to Jair Bolsonaro’s promises, is over.
Brazil’s president says that “we should work to have good relations with everyone, not based on their ideologies“. Although that’s been a part of his speech for a while, especially when fighting against the billions of dollars Brazil spent on countries like Cuba, Venezuela and Mozambique, some people say that there’s an ideologic reason for Bolsonaro’s empathy with Israel. Indeed. He’s a Christian – Catholic, to be more precise – and a conservative man. It’s easier for him to work with people with similar beliefs, like Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu. But that’s definitely not the only reason why he sees Israel with such good eyes.
One of the main reasons why Bolsonaro wants Israel to be more than a mere commercial partner is in the Northeast of Brazil. The country’s driest part is so similar to what Israel was before desalination: basically dry and dead. The “wet season” isn’t enough to supply all of the region’s needs, so people end up struggling to find water, which leads to a difficulty on keeping the animals they’d sell to get money to buy water from water trucks, and makes it even harder for them to work with one of the main ways of subsistance that they can afford: agriculture. Even though Brazil does have a desalination technique, it’s not even close to what Israel makes in the desert.
In a meeting between Israel’s premier and Brazil’s – at the time – president-elect, the first in history to take place in Brazil, Netanyahu said that “Israel is the promised land, and Brazil is the land of promises” and that he wants “to be a part of that (promise)”.
Bolsonaro does agree with a lot of the ideas Netanyahu and Trump’s minds, but the opportunity to finally have allies that will make Brazil grow, instead of just spending billions outside and getting nothing in exchange, is definitely more important than his ideology.