After the Israeli backlash, Lula orders Brazilian ambassador to Israel to return to Brazil

Brazil’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mauro Vieira, also called the Israeli ambassador to the Itamaraty Palace in Rio

Translated by: Ana Paula Rocha

Brasil de Fato | Brasília (Federal District) |
O presidente Lula, na Etiópia
Lula may be prevented from entering Israel - Reprodução/Canal Gov

President Lula ordered the Brazilian ambassador to Israel, Frederico Meyer, to return to the country. The measure was made public yesterday (19) by journalist Mônica Bergamo, from the Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo. The decision was a response to Israel’s reprimand, which summoned Meyer, also on Monday, to a meeting in the Yad Vashem Museum after Lula compared Israel’s actions in Gaza to Hitler's persecution of Jews. The statement was made on Sunday (18) in Ethiopia. 

After the media revealed the decision, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (also known as Itamaraty) released a statement informing that Minister Mauro Vieira has called Frederico Meyer for consultations and that he will return to Brazil today (20). In the statement, the ministry also said the Brazilian chancellor has summoned Israel's ambassador to Brazil, Daniel Zonshine, to appear this Monday at the Itamaraty Palace in Rio, where Mauro Vieira will attend the G20 meeting.

Lula's summoning of the ambassador is yet another episode in the crisis involving the two countries since the Brazilian president raised his voice against the massacre of Palestinians by the Israeli military and compared what is happening in the Gaza Strip to the atrocities Hitler committed against the Jews in Nazi Germany.

With Meyer’s return to Brazil, the country’s embassy in Israel will be headed by a chargé d’affaires. Before the Brazilian ambassador's return was announced, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz announced on Monday that Lula had become a persona non grata in the country.

“The comparison made by Brazil’s President, @LulaOficial, between Israel’s just war against Hamas and the atrocities of Hitler and the Nazis, which exterminated 6 million Jews, is a disgrace and a severe antisemitic attack that desecrates the memory of those killed in the Holocaust. We will not forget nor forgive. In my name and the name of the citizens of Israel, I declare President Lula persona non grata in Israel until he reconsiders his words," wrote the minister in his official account on X/Twitter.

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The decision, which could prevent Lula from traveling to Israel given he is now unwelcome there, was considered absurd by the Planalto Palace's international affairs advisor, Celso Amorim, who commented on the matter to the newspaper O Globo on his arrival at the Palace.

According to O Globo, the Israeli reaction has caused discomfort in Brazilian diplomacy, which believes that the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is trying to take political advantage of the episode amid the popularity crisis he is facing in Israel

“Persona non grata”

The term ‘persona non grata’ (“a person who is no longer welcome”, in a rough translation from Latin) is a legal instrument used in foreign affairs to indicate that a foreign official representative is unwelcome in a country. It was first described in Article 9 of the Vienna Convention, a treaty signed in 1961 that lists the rules of diplomatic relations to be followed by countries, and to which Brazil adheres.

In theory, this definition would only apply to the diplomatic corps of a foreign country and not to a head of state. In practice, however, this could prevent President Lula from traveling to Israel, but it probably won’t have any other serious consequences for Brazil than damaging Lula's image in the eyes of the Israeli government.

Edited by: Rodrigo Durão Coelho