Talk about a Via Dolorosa. Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is the first Brazilian president to visit Israel officially. Lauded for his charisma, swing and formidable negotiating powers – United States President Barack Obama refers to him as “the man” – little did Lula know that to engage his hosts this week he would have to give the Prophet Abraham a run for his money, no less.
In the end, he stood his ground. He made no concessions. And unlike United States Vice President Joseph Biden last week, he even managed not to be publicly humiliated by his hosts.
Lula is no stranger to tough neighborhoods. Former bouncer turned hardline politician Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister, boycotted Lula’s speech at the Knesset (parliament) as well as Lula’s meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The reason: Lula did not visit the tomb of Zionism founder Theodor Herzl. But neither did France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy or Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi when they visited Israel.
Brasilia – as much as Paris and Rome – knows very well that a visit to the tomb is not mandatory on presidential trips. Yet a choir of the Likud/settler hardcore Zionist faction in Israel carped that this would fatally wound the Brazilian government’s drive to become a mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
After being grilled in the Knesset – including by Netanyahu – for his policy of non-confrontation and dialogue with Iran, Lula did not flinch. He conde…