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Brazil honors Israeli ambassador with highest award for foreigners

Yossi Shelley given the National Order of the Southern Cross for work to improve ties between the two nations

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (L) awards the National Order of the Southern Cross, the country’s highest national honor for high-ranking guests, to Israel's ambassador in Brasilia Yossi Shelley on May 7, 2019 (Screencapture/YouTube)
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (L) awards the National Order of the Southern Cross, the country’s highest national honor for high-ranking guests, to Israel's ambassador in Brasilia Yossi Shelley on May 7, 2019 (Screencapture/YouTube)

Brazil has awarded Israel’s ambassador to the country, Yossi Shelley, its highest honor for foreigners, for his work to improve ties between the two nations.

Shelley was awarded the National Order of the Southern Cross, the country’s highest national honor for high-ranking guests, in Brasilia on Tuesday by President Jair Bolsonaro.

Shelley told The Times of Israel he received the award for his work in the economic sector over the last two years and for strengthening ties between Israel and Brazil in the fields of water technology, security and diplomacy.

Shelley, a political appointment, is a Likud party activist and former businessman. He assumed the ambassador position in January 2017.

His term there has seen a shift in relations between the two countries, particularly since the election of Bolsonaro earlier this year.

Bolsonaro, a former army chief, has drawn condemnation for his disparaging remarks about gay people, women, indigenous groups and black people during his 28-year career as a Brazilian congressman.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has eagerly embraced the newly elected Bolsonaro, who has found common ground with the prime minister’s right-wing government. His outspoken support for Israel has also played well to his evangelical base.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu touch the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, in the Old City of Jerusalem on April 1, 2019 (Menahem Kahana/Pool/AFP)

Netanyahu traveled to Brazil earlier in the year for Bolsonaro’s inauguration and the Brazilian leader then came to Israel in a high-profile visit just days before Israel’s elections, in a move many said was designed to bolster Netanyahu’s election showing.

During his visit to Israel, Bolsonaro announced Brazil’s decision to open a trade office in Jerusalem. Bolsonaro has previously pledged to move his country’s embassy to Jerusalem, but the relocation appears to be on hold.

Bolsonaro also visited the Western Wall accompanied by Netanyahu, becoming the first foreign head of state to visit the site together with a senior Israeli official.

Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.

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