PM Netanyahu’s Address in honor of Brazilian President Lula da Silva
Photo by GPO 

Honorable President Lula da Silva and Mrs. Lula da Silva, welcome to Israel and welcome to united Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, the eternal city and the city of the Bible.  The Knesset and people of Israel extend a warm welcome to you.

Mr. President,

You are the elected leader of a country renowned for its color, vitality and great talents which have earned it the love of the entire world. 

The very essence of the word ‘Brazil’ is enchanting.  It conjures up a rich and fascinating culture, a love of life that bursts forth through music, dance, Carnival and football.

I must reveal a state secret to you – there are people in Israel who have yellow shirts in their closets – many more than you can imagine.  I don’t want to cause a diplomatic incident by telling you which team I support in the international matches, but I will mention Brazilian football at the end of my speech.

Mr. President,

I visited your country during the 1980’s and was deeply impressed by its vast potential.   Two decades later, the entire world sees how this potential has been realized.

Under your leadership, Brazil has made enormous strides in establishing itself as a rising world power.  I am convinced that Brazil has a bright future. 

I envision Israel becoming a regional economic force and a world technological leader that is firmly anchored in its values and lives in peace with its neighbors.  In spite of the difficulties, I believe that Israel is on its way to achieving this.  I believe that cooperation between Israel and Brazil will help both our countries realize their visions.

Israel and Brazil’s respective developments in the economy, technology, culture and many other fields provide ample opportunity for cooperation between our two countries.

The first expression of this cooperation, and an important one, is the free trade agreement between Israel and Brazil in the framework of the “Mercosur” agreement, and trade amounting to $1.5 billion per year.  I believe that in several years time we will look back and be amazed that it was only $1.5 billion per year. I anticipate that our discussions will enable us to take steps to increase this figure.

Mr. President,

The people of Israel will never forget the historic role played by Oswaldo Aranha, the Brazilian statesman who served as the President of the UN in November 1947, more than 62 years ago.

The topic on the agenda was the resolution relating to the establishment of a Jewish state. The Jewish people, who had lost six million of its children in the Holocaust, were waiting for salvation – for the establishment of an independent Jewish state in the Land of Israel.

The Brazilian statesman Aranha supervised the UN General Assembly when it made the historic decision that our people will never forget.

I know that you are very familiar with the great change that is taking place among our people.  Two months ago you visited the “Kahal Tzur Yisrael” Synagogue, the first synagogue built on the American continent. 

This synagogue was established almost four hundred years ago in the city of Recife, the capital of the State of Pernambuco, the state where you were born.

Mr.President, you asked that the ceremony marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day be held in this synagogue.

Remembrance Day is not only intended to commemorate the Holocaust but also to raise awareness of the dangers humanity faces from extremist states and regimes, both in the past and the present.

Precisely because of this, Mr. President, I appeal to you in the hope that Brazil will join the ever-growing international front opposed to a nuclear-armed Iran. 

I believe that the Iranian regime represents values diametrically opposed to those represented by the Brazilian culture and people. 

They are motivated by tyranny and cruelty.  You represent openness and tolerance.

They oppress women and minorities.  You advocate freedom and equality.

They worship death.  You revere life.

The Iranian regime denies the Holocaust, calls for the destruction of Israel, develops nuclear weapons and supports terrorist organizations.

Today, Iran is the greatest threat to stability and peace in the Middle East.

I believe that Brazil’s unique position enables it to take part in a wider and stronger moral front comprised of many countries, with the goal of eliminating the serious danger that Iran’s nuclear armament poses to regional and world peace.

Honorable President Lula da Silva,

The Government of Israel will continue to work to advance peace in our region, as we have done during the past year.

From day one of the establishment of our government, we have repeatedly called on the Palestinian Authority to enter the peace tent with us and begin negotiations.   We have taken a number of steps, both in word and deed, to advance peace.  

In my speech at Bar-Ilan University, I called upon the Israelis and Palestinians to live side by side in peace and security, with the Palestinians living in a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state. 

We worked to advance peace by removing hundreds of roadblocks, checkpoints and dirt barriers to ease movement for the Palestinians.  We facilitated Palestinian economic development and announced an unprecedented step: a moratorium on new construction in Judea and Samaria.

Regrettably, while we have taken all these steps, the Palestinian Authority has been placing preconditions to talks, waging a campaign to undermine Israel’s legitimacy and unfortunately is not attempting to curb scathing statements against Israel in their official media. 

We all know one simple rule.  The only way to achieve a peace agreement is to begin negotiating a peace agreement.

We have been and remain prepared to begin peace negotiations at any time, including right now.  I am not saying this only in relation to the Palestinians but also in regard to our other neighbors – to the Syrians and others.

We desire peace.

I hope that the Palestinians will not once again place preconditions on talks – preconditions that have never been placed on any Israeli government and which would be unacceptable to any Israeli government.

No government of Israel for the last 40 years has agreed to place restrictions on building in Jerusalem – not Levi Eshkol, not Golda Meir, not Menachem Begin, not Shimon Peres, not Yitzhak Shamir, not Yitzhak Rabin, not Ariel Sharon, not Ehud Barak, not Ehud Olmert.

During that time, all these governments have built in the suburbs of Jerusalem – in Gilo, in Ramot, in Neve Yaakov, in Ramat Eshkol, in French Hill, in Pisgat Zeev, in Ramat Shlomo and elsewhere. 

The establishment of these Jewish neighborhoods did not harm the Arabs of east Jerusalem in any way, shape or form and it was not at their expense. 

Today, nearly half of Jerusalem’s Jewish population lives in these neighborhoods.  None of these areas is far away; they are all a few minutes travel from here.  They are within six kilometers of the Israeli Knesset.

Regardless of whatever political differences there may be in this house regarding the final status agreement and the ultimate borders of Israel, everyone agrees that all these neighborhoods will remain part of Israel in any final peace settlement.

We will continue to ensure that Jerusalem is an open city accessible to all religions; a city where Jews and Arabs, Christians and Muslims co-exist and enjoy freedom of religion and access to religious sites.

Mr. President,

You, your wife and your entourage are honored, distinguished and welcome guests in Jerusalem and the State of Israel. 

Your visit is important for deepening the friendship between our peoples and strengthening our cooperation and the shared interests of our two countries.

Mr. President, I also appreciate that we think alike on a very important topic.

During one of my recent meetings with the leader of a certain European country – I won’t say which country so as to avoid causing a diplomatic incident, an argument took place:

Who is the greatest footballer of all times?

He said Maradona. I said Pele!

He insisted that it was Maradona. I didn’t give in and said Pele!

I told him that Pele represents the best of Brazilian football, the Brazilian spirit.  He floats over the field.  He handles the ball with inconceivable skill, artistry, ease and elegance.

We agreed to disagree.

I am sure that you share my hope for the day that this will be the worst disagreement between leaders in this region.  When that day comes, when we can sit with our neighbors, develop the region, develop our children’s future, develop a flourishing, prosperous economy – with the help of countries such as Brazil –  I am sure that then we will know that we achieved the long-awaited peace with Brazil’s help.

Welcome to Jerusalem, Mr. President.