Brazil opens diplomatic office instead of embassy

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro walked back an earlier promise to relocate the Brazilian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, instead announcing the opening of a trade mission during a trip to Israel this week.

Bolsonaro, a strong supporter of Israel, had promised when he assumed Brazil’s presidency in January to become the third country to relocate its embassy, after the United States and Guatemala. Up until rumors to the contrary started circulating last week, Israelis were expecting such an announcement during Bolsonaro’s visit to Israel, which began Sunday.

The president likely succumbed to intense pressure from Brazil’s powerful agriculture sector which relies heavily on exports to Arab nations plus threats from the Arab League that moving the embassy to Jerusalem would setback Brazil’s relations with Arab countries. Brazil has traditionally backed a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and does not officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Despite that, Bolsonaro became the first foreign head of state to visit the Western Wall with a senior Israeli official—Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself—a move that could be seen as a tacit recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the site. The international community generally considers the Western Wall “occupied Palestinian territory.”

Netanyahu kept a positive spin on the visit, which involved the largest delegation Brazil has sent to Israel. He welcomes the opening of “an official office of the Government of Brazil in Jerusalem.

“I hope that this is a first step toward the opening in time of the Brazilian Embassy in Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said.

Upon landing, Bolsonaro said in Hebrew: “I love Israel.” He also spoke of Judeo-Christian values that both nations share.

“I’ve always been asked: What can we learn from Israel?” Bolsonaro said. “I would tell them: We need to have the same faith as they have.”

Photo Credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO

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