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Sunday, 08 December 2019

Brazil president visits Western Wall with Netanyahu in first

AFP , Monday 1 Apr 2019
Jair Bolsonaro in Israel
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (foreground) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (background) pray at the Western wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, in the Old City of Jerusalem on April 1, 2019 (Photo: AFP)
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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro visited the Western Wall alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, becoming the first head of state to do so with an Israeli premier.

The site, one of the holiest in Judaism, is located in east Jerusalem, occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed in a move never recognised by the international community.

Such visits can be seen as granting tacit approval to Israeli sovereignty over the site.

An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman said it was the first time a sitting head of state had visited there with an Israeli prime minister.

The two men approached the wall and placed their hands on its stones during the brief visit in rainy weather.

Bolsonaro's visit follows a similar one by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on March 21, when he became the first high-ranking American official to visit the Western Wall with an Israeli prime minister.

Bolsonaro has expressed his strong support for Israel and spoke of being moved by a Christian pilgrimage to the Jordan River he undertook a couple of years ago.

He has also pledged to follow in US President Donald Trump's footsteps and move Brazil's Israel embassy to Jerusalem, but that is on hold for now.

Trump became the first sitting American president to visit the wall, the holiest site where Jews are allowed to pray, in May 2017, but he was not accompanied by any Israeli leaders.

Monday's visit and the one by Pompeo come ahead of Israel's April 9 elections in which Netanyahu is facing a tough challenge from centrist former military chief Benny Gantz.

The visits have provided him with an opportunity to further his argument that he is Israel's irreplaceable statesman, a key part of his campaign.

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