Brazil moving its embassy to Jerusalem matter of when, not if: Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that Brazil's President-elect Jair Bolsonaro told him that it was a matter of "when, not if" he moves his country's embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
The Israeli and Brazilian flags hang outside the building housing the offices of the Brazilian Embassy, in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv.
The Israeli and Brazilian flags hang outside the building housing the offices of the Brazilian Embassy, in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv.PHOTO: AFP

RIO DE JANEIRO • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Brazil's President-elect Jair Bolsonaro told him it was a matter of "when, not if" he moves his country's embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

Far-right Mr Bolsonaro, who takes office today and is hosting Mr Netanyahu and the leaders of other countries for his inauguration, has said he would like to follow the lead of United States President Donald Trump and move the embassy.

But he has come under pressure from Brazil's powerful agriculture sector not to do so as it could hurt the country's exports to Arab nations.

Despite Mr Netanyahu's comments, a senior official from Brazil's incoming government told Reuters on Sunday that no decision had yet been made.

Such a move by Mr Bolsonaro would be a sharp shift in Brazilian foreign policy, which has traditionally backed a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Arab League had told Mr Bolsonaro that moving Brazil's embassy to Jerusalem would be a setback for relations with Arab countries, according to a letter seen by Reuters last month.

"Mr Bolsonaro told me it was 'when, not if' he moves the embassy to Jerusalem," Mr Netanyahu said on Sunday at 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. This heralds a historic change."

Mr Netanyahu, who met Mr Bolsonaro last Friday, also said the Brazilian had accepted his invitation to visit Israel, a trip that is likely to take place in March.

Mr Netanyahu is the first Israeli prime minister to visit Brazil. After he met the Israeli leader, Mr Bolsonaro said "we need good allies, good friends, good brothers, such as Benjamin Netanyahu".

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 01, 2019, with the headline 'Brazil moving its embassy to Jerusalem matter of when, not if: Netanyahu'. Print Edition | Subscribe