Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 23 August 2019

Brazil Jerusalem embassy move case of ‘when, not if’

Israeli leader Netanyahu says Brazil’s president-elect promised controversial move

Brazilian President-elect Jair Bolsonaro (L) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) participate in an act at a synagogue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 28 December 2018. E{A
Brazilian President-elect Jair Bolsonaro (L) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) participate in an act at a synagogue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 28 December 2018. E{A

Brazil moving its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem is now a matter of “when, not if”, according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Israeli leader, on a visit to Rio De Janeiro, said that Brazil’s president-elect Jair Bolsonaro promised him that he would relocate the diplomatic mission from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a highly controversial move that Arab nations have warned threatens Brasilia’s trade relations in the Middle East.

“Bolsonaro told me it was ‘when, not if’ he moves the embassy to Jerusalem,” Mr Netanyahu said on Sunday during a meeting with leaders of Brazil’s Jewish community in Rio de Janeiro.

“We attach enormous importance to Brazil, and Brazil in the context of Latin America,” he added. “This heralds a historic change.”

An Arab ministerial delegation is set to travel to Brazil next month in a bid to lobby Mr Bolsonaro, who enters office on January 1, and convince him against the move.

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The Arab League wrote in a letter this month that such a move would be a setback for relations between Brazil and the Arab world. Brazil earns around $1 billion in meat exports to Arab countries as it is produced according to halal practices.

The Palestinians, who live under Israeli occupation in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, seek a sovereign state side-by-side with Israel.

They have earmarked East Jerusalem as the capital of any future state but fear unilateral Israeli moves to make the entirety of the contested city its own. The city hosts holy sites revered by both Muslims and Jews, including the Haram Al Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, the third-holiest place of worship in Islam.

In November, the far-right Brazilian candidate wrote on his Twitter account that he intended to move the embassy but made a U-turn just a week later saying that “it has not been decided yet”.

Mr Netanyahu said he had extended an invite for the Brazilian leader to visit Israel before March, which he accepted. It He will attend Mr Bolsonaro’s inauguration on Tuesday.

Updated: December 31, 2018 12:42 PM

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