Brazil said to withdraw ambassador from Israel, no plans to appoint new envoy

Foreign Ministry says no official message received, summons deputy ambassador for clarification, as reported move signals further rift after President Lula’s ‘Hitler’ remarks

File - Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva during a ministerial meeting at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, on May 13, 2024. (Evaristo Sa / AFP)
File - Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva during a ministerial meeting at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, on May 13, 2024. (Evaristo Sa / AFP)

Brazil has recalled its ambassador to Israel and will not immediately appoint a replacement, a diplomatic source told AFP on Wednesday, in a move expected to ratchet up tensions between the two countries over the war in Gaza.

The Foreign Ministry said it has received no official notice to that effect, and has summoned Brazil’s deputy ambassador for a Thursday meeting to discuss the matter. The ambassador, Frederico Meyer, has been out of Israel since February, when he was called home for consultations.

The Gaza war has soured Israel’s diplomatic ties with several nations, including Brazil, whose President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in February accused Jerusalem of “genocide,” saying the only historical equivalent was “when Hitler decided to kill the Jews.”

Israel reacted furiously, declaring the Brazilian leader “persona non grata.”

Israel also summoned Ambassador Meyer to a meeting at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, which the Brazilian source called “a humiliation to which [Meyer] was subjected.”

In response, Brazil recalled Meyer for consultations and, in turn, summoned Israel’s representative in Brasilia.

Brazil’s ambassador to Israel, Frederico Meyer (L), and Foreign Minister Israel Katz (R) tour the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem, February 19, 2024. (Michael Dimenstein/GPO)

The source said conditions had not been met for Meyer to return to Israel.

The Brazilian representation in Israel in the meantime is being led by diplomat Fabio Farias.

Lula, a self-styled voice for the global south whose country currently holds the rotating presidency of the G20, has faced pushback at home from the right over his comments.

However, he has received support elsewhere in Latin America, notably from Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro, who declared on May 1 that his country would sever ties with Israel over its conduct in the war. Both Brazil and Colombia have supported South Africa’s complaint against Israel to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, alleging the Gaza assault amounted to a breach of the Genocide Convention.

Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva speaks during a press conference in Addis Ababa on February 18, 2024. (Ricardo STUCKERT / Brazilian Presidency / AFP)

Lula and Petro had earlier condemned Hamas’s shock October 7 assault on southern Israel, in which thousands of terrorists stormed the country’s south to kill nearly 1,200 people, mainly civilians, and take 252 hostages, amid rampant atrocities.

Vowing to dismantle the Palestinian terror group and return the hostages, Israel launched an offensive on the Gaza Strip.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry says more than 36,000 people in the Strip have been killed or are presumed dead in the fighting so far, of whom some 24,000 fatalities have been identified at hospitals. The toll, which cannot be independently verified, includes some 15,000 gunmen Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

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