The special adviser for international affairs to the Brazilian presidency, Marco Aurelio Garcia, called the spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel, Yigal Palmor, “the assistant of the assistant of the assistant of the assistant of the assistant.” Palmor was the guy who classified Brazil as “a diplomatic dwarf” and joked about the Brazilian defeat by 7 to 1 to Germany, in the World Cup.
“He [Yigal Palmor] is the assistant of the assistant of the assistant of the assistant of the assistant,” said Garcia, upon arriving for the installation of the National Committee for the Prevention and Fight against Torture (CNPCT), at the Presidential Palace, in Brazilian capital Brasília.
Former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, when still a candidate, in 2002, used the same terms to refer to Robert Zoellick, US former undersecretary of State. At the time, Lula said he would not negotiate with Zoellick a possible entry of Brazil in the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), but only with then-president George Bush.
The Israeli government criticized Brazil for recalling the Brazilian ambassador in Tel Aviv for consultations and releasing two statements deeming unacceptable the increasingly violent conflicts between Israel and Palestine. In the text put out on Wednesday, July 23, Brazil “strongly condemns the disproportionate use of force” by Israel in the Gaza Strip.
Yigal Palmor, a spokesman of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, stated: “Israel expresses its disappointment in the decision of Brazil’s government to recall its ambassador for consultations. This decision does not reflect the level of relations between the countries and ignores Israel’s right to defend itself.
“Such steps do not contribute to promote calm and stability in the region. Rather, they provide tailwind to terrorism, and naturally affect Brazil’s capacity to wield influence,” the text reads.
Yigal Palmor further said that “Israel expects support from its friends in its struggle against Hamas, which is recognized as a terror organization by many countries around the world.” Israeli newspapers, however, have reported harsher criticism from the spokesman.
According to Jewish publication The Jerusalem Post, Palmor said that “This is an unfortunate demonstration of why Brazil, an economic and cultural giant, remains a diplomatic dwarf,” adding that “The moral relativism behind this move makes Brazil an irrelevant diplomatic partner, one who creates problems rather than contributes to solutions.”
In an interview with O Globo, Palmor also brought up Brazil’s crushing World Cup defeat against Germany.
“Israel’s response is perfectly proportioned in accordance with international law. This is not football. In football, when a game ends in a draw, and when you think proportion is 7-1 is disproportionate. Sorry to say, but not so in real life and under international law.”
In a note published Wednesday, Israel’s Foreign Ministry also reiterated its call for an “immediate cease fire” between the two parties.
Brazil’s ministry, in turn, explained that, given the gravity of the situation, the institution voted for the resolution of the United Nations Human Rights Council, which condemns the current military offensive in the Gaza Strip and creates an international commission to investigate all violations and charge those accountable for them.
The Israeli Confederation of Brazil also responded to the issue through a statement, in an effort to “manifest its outrage at the note issued by our Foreign Ministry, in which the unilateral approach over the conflict in the Gaza Strip is made clear as it criticizes Israel and ignores the doings of terrorist group Hamas.”
“A note like the one released on Wednesday can only serve to increase the mistrust with which important sectors of Israeli society, from many political and ideological fields, view Brazil’s external policy,” stated the institution, which went on to say that it shares the concern felt by the Brazilian people, and expresses “profound grief over the deaths on both sides of the conflict,” in addition to expect an immediate cease fire as well.
In a previous note, released on July 17, the Brazilian government stated that it “likewise condemns the launch of Gaza rockets and mortar shells against Israel.” Brazil and Germany are the only countries that maintain diplomatic relations with all member nations of the UN.
It was one of the 29 countries to vote for the resolution of the UN Human Rights Council. There were 17 abstentions, and the US’s was the sole opposing vote. Apart from Japan, all European countries present, among which France, the UK and Germany, chose to abstain.
Brazil’s Foreign Relations Minister Luiz Alberto Figueiredo supported the position adopted by the Brazilian government, which released a note strongly condemning “the disproportionate use of force” by Israel in the Gaza Strip.
“We condemn the disproportionateness in Israel’s reaction, with the death of approximately 700 people, of whom around 70% are civilians, among whom many women, children and elders. Indeed, it is not acceptable that an attack should raise the number of dead children, women and civilians so considerably” the minister declared. “That is the fact this new statement refers to,” Figueiredo pointed out.
The minister also highlighted that, last week, the Brazilian Foreign Ministry had already released a note opposing Islamic movement Hamas for the rockets launched against Israel, and also the latter, for attacking the Gaza Strip. “Israel complains that, in the previous note, we did not express opposition, as we had done before. Our opposition still holds true; we strongly oppose Hamas’s launching rockets against Israel. This is still true. There’s no doubt. There can’t be any doubts about that,” Figueiredo added.
While speaking to journalists in São Paulo after an event, Figueiredo responded to the statement made by Yigal Palmor, a spokesman of Israel’s Foreign Relations Ministry. According to newspaperThe Jerusalem Post, he described Brazil as a “diplomatic dwarf”, in spite of the Latin American country’s economic and cultural position. “What I read is that Brazil is a cultural and economic giant, and also a diplomatic dwarf. I must say that Brazil is one of the few countries—one of the 11 countries in the world—to have diplomatic relations with all UN member countries. And we have a history of cooperation for peace and actions for international peace. If there’s a diplomatic dwarf, Brazil’s definitely not one of them,” the chancellor responded.
Figueiredo believes, however, that Palmor’s statements should not damage the friendly relations between the two nations. “Countries have the right to disagree. And we’re using our right to show Israel that we find the death of women and children unacceptable, but we do not question Israel’s right to defend itself. We’ve never questioned that. What we question is the disproportionateness of things,” he pointed out.
The Brazilian chancellor also argued for the position adopted by Brazil in the United Nations Human Rights Council. Brazil voted to condemn Israel’s current military offensive in the Gaza Strip and to assemble an international commission aimed at investigating all violations and charging all those accountable for them.
“The majority have offered their support, including the whole of Latin America. As our Latin American neighbors, we have also supported, in this case, an independent international investigation to ascertain what happened, what’s going on. I find it reasonable that an independent international investigation should take place, and it was on behalf of that that we have made our statement,” he concluded.
Brazilian Journalist’s Opinion
The number of dead Palestinians after the latest conflict in the Gaza Strip in the high hundreds, and, in spite of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s appeal for peace in the region, the solution does not seem to be simple, or near.
In the view of Guila Flint, a Brazilian journalist who lives in Tel Aviv and has worked in the coverage of the Middle East for 20 years, the scenario tends to aggravate before peace is restored by Palestinians and Israelis.
“I think the matter is yet to worsen considerably before a solution is found. The current chapter may end soon – in the next few days – but that does not make it impossible that, in a year or six months from now, a new outbreak takes place, a new, bloody chapter,” she said.
She believes Israel’s First Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest statements contribute to the hostilities. “It’s a conflict of very difficult solution because clearly the Israeli government is not willing to give up the territories occupied. [This] totally contradicts the alleged two-State view that Benjamin Netanyahu said he held.”
However, she argues, there are elements that could force both sides to cease fire. She mentioned the isolation of Hamas, the Islamic group controlling the Gaza Strip.
“Hamas is no longer supported by Egypt, with which they enjoyed friendly relations during the administration of Mohamed Morsi, overthrown in 2013. Furthermore, the pressure from the international community for the cease fire, and the considerable firepower discrepancy between Israelis and Palestinians, who are at a great disadvantage in this respect, should contribute to the end of the current conflicts.”
Flint further noted, however, that there is little hope to be found among young people, and not just Palestinians: “Thousands and thousands of Israeli youths are leaving the country. We see today the best of Israel’s youth, the most cultivated youths, the most successful, the best professionals – all leaving the country for Berlin, London, and New York. They no longer believe in their own country.”