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Interest groups and foreign policy in Brazil: perceptions and influence of the Brazilian Jewish community in Brazil-Middle East relations

Abstract

Relations between Brazil and the Middle East have gained importance - and stirred controversy among political circles and in the media - in the Lula (2003-2010) and Dilma (2011-2015) years. Particularly in this dimension of Brazil's international affairs, interest groups have become uncommonly active in their attempt to change or constrain the Brazilian government's foreign policy decisions, such as the Brazilian Jewish community and segments of the Evangelical Christian community in the country. This is unprecedented, to some degree, because interests groups have historically had limited leverage in the context of Brazilian foreign policy-making, with the exception of trade policies. By analyzing this process, we intend to open up new perspectives on the study of foreign policy as public policy in Brazil. Our research question is: what are the Brazilian Jewish community's perceptions and strategies towards Brazil's foreign policy regarding the Middle East in the last thirteen years? The objective of this research is twofold: firstly, we want to assess the extent to which the Jewish community in Brazil has a homogeneous take on issues pertaining to Israeli interests, especially Brazil's relationship with Iran, with the Palestinian Authority and with the Israeli government itself. Secondly, we want to evaluate the means and strategies through which the Jewish community expresses its positions of support or contestation toward foreign policy decisions, making use of organized institutions (such as the Brazilian Israelite Confederation and the state-based Federations), of parliamentary pressure and of alliances with groups that sympathize with Israel, such as some Evangelical churches, as well as groups within the Armed Forces and economic sectors. We therefore want to measure the capacity and degree of influence of the pro-Israeli coalition in Brazil's relations with the Middle East, shedding light on the complexities that drive the formulation and implementation of Brazil's global agenda. (AU)

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