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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 16 November 2018

Palestinians slam plan to move Brazil embassy to Jerusalem

Newly elected leader Jair Bolsonaro has joined 'negative alliance against international law', PLO official says

Brazil's president-elect Jair Bolsonaro aims to overhaul the oil industry. AP
Brazil's president-elect Jair Bolsonaro aims to overhaul the oil industry. AP

A senior Palestinian official on Friday condemned Brazilian far-right President-elect Jair Bolsonaro's announcement that he would move his country's Israel embassy to Jerusalem, following in the footsteps of US Preident Donald Trump.

"These are provocative and illegal steps that will only destabilise security and stability in the region," said Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation's executive committee.

The United States moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May, sparking fury among Palestinians, who seek the Israeli-annexed eastern part of the city as the capital of their future state.

"It is very unfortunate that Brazil has joined this negative alliance against international law," Ms Ashrawi said.

On Thursday Mr Bolsonaro tweeted that "as previously stated during our campaign, we intend to transfer the Brazilian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem".

"Israel is a sovereign state and we shall duly respect that," he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the move as "historic".

Only the United States and Guatemala currently have their embassies in Jerusalem, while other countries have theirs in Tel Aviv.

Israel occupied Arab east Jerusalem in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community. It claims the entire city as its capital.

For decades the international community maintained that the city's status should be negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians.

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Read more: What Brazil's far right president-elect has in mind for the Middle East

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Mr Bolsonaro's tweet about the embasy move is the latest controversial announcement by the former army captain, who has wasted no time implementing his hardline conservative agenda since his election win on Sunday.

He also made waves on the domestic front, naming the judge who has upended Brazilian politics with a massive corruption investigation, Sergio Moro, to be his justice minister.

Mr Moro is a hero to many Brazilians for his unrelenting "Car Wash" investigation, which uncovered the large-scale looting of state oil company Petrobras.

But for opponents, the move fuelled accusations that the judge was politically motivated - especially against leftist ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva who, according to opinion polls, would have beaten Mr Bolsonaro in the election had he not been jailed for 12 years for corruption.

Mr Bolsonaro promised in his victory speech to "change Brazil's destiny," and the four days since the election have given a glimpse of the magnitude of the change he has in mind.

The president-elect has doubled down on his vow to roll back gun-control laws so "good people" can take justice into their own hands, lashed out at the news media and begun lining up a cabinet of political outsiders, including an army general and an ultra-free-market economist.

A favorite with the market, Mr Bolsonaro's election has seen Brazilian stocks gain 3.9 per cent in the week since the vote, closing at a record high on Thursday.

On the diplomatic front, the embassy move squarely aligned him with the US president, and bolsters his image as a "Tropical Trump".

Mr Bolsonaro's first foreign trips as president will be to Israel, the United States and Chile - countries that "share our world view", according to his future for chief of staff, Onyx Lorenzoni.