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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 November 2018

Palestinian envoy hopeful of Jair Bolsonaro embassy U-turn

The Palestinian mission will intensify efforts to dissuade Brazil from breaking with years of diplomatic tradition

The Israeli and Brazilian flags hang outside the building housing the offices of the Brazilian Embassy in Tel Aviv. AFP
The Israeli and Brazilian flags hang outside the building housing the offices of the Brazilian Embassy in Tel Aviv. AFP

The Palestinian envoy to Brazil said Monday he hoped president-elect Jair Bolsonaro's pledge to relocate Brasilia's embassy in Israel to Jerusalem was simply campaign talk and would lobby the new government against the move.

"Let's hope it's a campaign announcement. We are hoping that [the incoming government] will maintain Brazil's traditional position, respectful of the United Nations resolutions on the issue," Ibrahim Alzeben said.

The Palestinians consider the Israeli-annexed eastern part of Jerusalem the capital of their future state and have condemned the move from Tel Aviv as provocative, saying it would destabilise security in the region.

However Mr Alzeben – the Palestinian ambassador in Brazil since 2008 – dismissed as "premature" any notion of hardening the Palestinian tone with the incoming far-right government.

Mr Alzeben said from this week – when Mr Bolsonaro begins his transition to power – the Palestinian mission will intensify efforts to dissuade the new government from breaking with years of diplomatic tradition.

Mr Alzeben believes the decision can be reversed before Mr Bolsonaro is sworn in.

"We have two months for diplomacy to do its job," he said, adding that his side was in touch with Bolsonaro's team over what he considered a "very important issue."

"I doubt that the elected government does not want peace for that region," he added.

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Mr Bolsonaro, who takes office on January 1, has yet to make the key announcement of who his foreign minister will be. But the former army captain announced the embassy relocation plan during his election campaign, following the lead of the United States.

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".

Brazil formally recognised the Palestinian state in 2010, during the term of leftist president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

In 1975, under the military dictatorship, Brazil recognised the Palestinian Liberation Organisation as a national liberation movement. It authorised the opening of a Palestinian mission in Brasilia in 1993, according it embassy status five years later.