JERUSALEM (JTA) — Brazil’s president said he would not visit the grave of Theodor Herzl during his first official visit to Israel.
President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva, who arrived in Israel on Sunday, refused to visit Herzl’s grave, which is part of the itinerary for visiting foreign officials this year in honor of the 150th anniversary of the father of Zionism. The Brazilian president is reportedly scheduled to visit the grave of Yasir Arafat during a visit to Ramallah.
“It is an insult to Israel’s citizens and to Zionist communities around the world,” World Zionist Organization head Hagai Merom said Monday. "Avoiding putting a wreath at Herzl’s grave is the same as refusing to visit the graves of Mustafa Kemal Ata Turk in Turkey or the tomb of Mahatma Ghandi in India."
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden visited the grave last week.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman boycotted Lula’s address to the Knesset Monday afternoon, to protest his refusal to visit Herzl’s grave. The Foreign Ministry said that Lieberman wanted to show the Brazilian leader that Israel takes seriously his dismissal of diplomatic protocols, Haaretz reported..
Lula said prior to his trip that new countries should help mediate between Israel and the Palestinians.