Netanyahu speaks to Brazil Evangelicals, presented with ‘savior’ stamp

Addressing pro-Israel and pro-Bolsonaro confab, prime minister says Israel-Brazil ties ‘an alliance of brothers’

A commemorative stamp issued by the Brazilian state of Amazonas, celebrating the visit of Benjamin Netanyahu, on December 30, 2018. (courtesy)
A commemorative stamp issued by the Brazilian state of Amazonas, celebrating the visit of Benjamin Netanyahu, on December 30, 2018. (courtesy)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday praised the Brazilian Evangelical Christian community for its strong support of Israel, as the visiting leader of the Jewish state was dedicated a stamp marked with the word “Savior.”

“We have no better friends in the world than the Evangelical community, and the Evangelical community has no better friend in the world than the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said at an event in Rio de Janeiro.

The country’s large Evangelical population — up to one-fifth of the country, according to experts — was credited with sweeping President-elect Jair Bolsonaro’s to power earlier this year.

“You know that President Bolsonaro’s first name in Hebrew is Yair, which is also the name of our son,” said Netanyahu. “But Yair means something in Hebrew: he who brings light. And I think that we have now an opportunity together to bring a lot of light to the people of Brazil and the people of Israel. This is an alliance of brothers.”

Celebrating Netanyahu’s visit, the Brazilian state of Amazonas issued a commemorative stamp with a picture of the prime minister on it, dedicated by Christian Israel supporters in the city of Manaus.

The stamp includes a mention of Israel’s 70th birthday, the words “Mazal Tov” and the word “Savior” written on a Jewish star, presumably referring to Netanyahu.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a gathering of Evangelical Christians in Rio de Janeiro on December 30, 2018. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Earlier on Sunday, Netanyahu told Brazilian Jewish leaders that Bolsonaro had informed him that he would like to relocate the Latin American country’s mission from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“Mr Bolsonaro also said this: I will move the embassy to Jerusalem. It’s not a question of if, just a question of when,” Netanyahu said.

The statement came after Netanyahu and Bolsonaro met on Friday, and after an Israeli government source insisted Saturday that Brazil’s embassy move to Jerusalem was merely “a matter of time.”

“The situation is similar to [US President Donald] Trump’s declaration” that he planned to move the US embassy in December of 2017, the source said. “He declared it and he carried it out later on.”

The US Embassy move, which was feted by Evangelical Christians, took place in May of 2018, six months after Trump stated his intention to see his election promise through.

Netanyahu had announced his trip to Brazil following a November 1 tweet from Bolsonaro, indicating that he intends to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, following in Trump’s footsteps. Bolsonaro later backtracked by saying “it hasn’t been decided yet.”

Brazil’s President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, left, and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands during a joint statement at the military base Fort Copacabana, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, December 28, 2018. (Leo Correa/ Pool Photo via AP)

On Friday, Bolsonaro said he expects to visit Israel by March 2019, after accepting an invitation by Netanyahu.

Bolsonaro, who takes power on Tuesday as an untested leader, has pledged a crackdown on crime and corruption and ideological opposition to the left.

The 63-year-old former paratrooper, long an obscure politician, won electoral legitimacy with a comfortable win in October, triumphing in a country left bitter and demoralized by a record recession, graft exposed at the highest levels, and a soaring murder rate.

Bolsonaro and his far-right policies seduced, where a divided left and a marginalized center-right floundered. His ultraconservative Social Liberal Party scooped up 52 seats in the 513-member Congress, making it the second-biggest group in the fractured legislature.

To ensure he can govern, Bolsonaro will rely on deputies belonging to key lobbies rallying to his party to pass legislation. They include those defending the interests of agribusiness, burgeoning evangelical churches, and pro-gun groups.

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