SÃO PAULO – Israel has lambasted Brazil over a decision to recall its ambassador for consultations in protest at Israel’s ongoing military offensive in the Gaza Strip.
In a statement issued on Thursday, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Brazil’s actions “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 statement continued.
(UPDATE: Brazil is now studying its response to comments from Israel that it is “politically irrelevant”, possibly from President Rousseff personally, according to the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper.)
An Israeli foreign ministry spokesperson went further in his condemnation of Brazil’s diplomacy:
“This is an unfortunate demonstration of why Brazil, an economic and cultural giant, remains a diplomatic dwarf,” Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Yigal Palmor was quoted by The Jerusalem Post as saying.
“The moral relativism behind this move makes Brazil an irrelevant diplomatic partner, one who creates problems rather than contributes to solutions,” Palmor continued.
Brazil’s Ministry of External Affairs, the Itamaraty, issued a note on Wednesday evening local time saying it considered the “escalation of violence between Israel and Palestine” as “unacceptable,” and that the South American country “strongly condemns the disproportionate use of force by Israel in the Gaza Strip”.
The note said Brazil’s ambassador in Tel Aviv, Henrique Pinto, had been recalled for consultations, a move that Brazil’s Globo News site labelled as “exceptional,” adding that such a diplomatic tactic was “taken when the government wants to show its discontent and believes that the situation in other country is extremely grave.”
Brazil has also summoned the Israeli Ambassador to Brazil, Rafael Eldad, the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper reported.
‘Clear signals needed’
Brazil’s O Globo newspaper quoted a Brazilian diplomatic source as saying that the ambassadorial team in Israel had conveyed a “shortcoming” in Brazil’s approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict, and that “clear signals” had to be given to show Brazil would not accept what is happening.
“This slaughter must stop. If confirmation comes that there is no ceasefire on the horizon, we will take further steps,” the diplomatic source was quoted by the newspaper as saying.
During a state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping last week, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said her country was “profoundly concerned by the dramatic events in the Middle East, particularly in the Gaza Strip”.
However, Rousseff has been less vocal than her predecessor, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who openly criticised Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians, and in 2010 warned that Israel’s building of new settlements and a new dividing wall, as well as the continued blockade of Gaza, were extinguishing a “candle of hope”.
Israel launched its military offensive on 8 July, declaring an operation to curb rocket fire from Gaza. Since then at least 710 Palestinians and 35 Israelis – 32 of them soldiers – have been killed, officials say.
Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said on Wednesday that his group would not accept a ceasefire with Israel unless the years-long blockade of the Palestinian enclave was lifted.
Brazil was one of the 29 countries in the UN Human rights Council that voted on Wednesday to investigate Israel over its military offensive in Gaza. Some 17 countries abstained, and only the United States voted against the probe.
Brazil is seeking a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and has been seeking to increase its presence on the international political stage.