Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil's president-elect, on October 28, 2018.
(photo credit: REUTERS/PILAR OLIVARES)
Brazil intends to move its embassy to Jerusalem, the country's president-elect Jair Bolsonaro announced on his Facebook page on Thursday, wasting no time in declaring intent to implement one of his campaign pledges.
“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 wrote.
Bolsonaro is a populist, ultra-conservative, Evangelical Christian whose victory Sunday signified a stunning shift in the direction of Brazil which has been ruled for the last 15 years by the far-left Workers Party. It also represents a tectonic shift in the country's relationship with Israel.
In an interview Thursday with Israel Hayom
, Bolsonaro repeated his pledge to move the embassy,
“Israel is a sovereign state. If you decide on your capital city, we will act in accordance. When I was asked during the campaign if I'll do it [relocate the embassy] when I was president, I said yes, and that you're the ones who decide on the capital of Israel, not other people,” he said.
He also said during the campaign that he would close the Palestinian Embassy in Brasilia. Asked about this in the interview, he said: "As for the Palestinian Embassy, it was built too close to the presidential palace … No embassy can be so close to the presidential palace, so we intend to move it. There's no other way, in my opinion. Other than that, Palestine first needs to be a state to have the right to an embassy."
Bolsonaro also said that Israel can now “count on having our vote in the UN. I know that often the vote is almost symbolic, but it helps to define the position a country intends to take. Rest assured that you can depend on our vote in the UN on almost all the issues having to do with Israel."
In the past, Brazil was among those countries that almost always voted against Israel in international forums.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoned Bolsonaro shortly after his election victory to congratulate him, and said that he intends on attending his inauguration
on January 1.
If Brazil does indeed go ahead with the embassy move, it will join the United States and Guatemala, who took similar steps. Paraguay also moved its embassy, but then quickly changed its mind following a change of presidents there and moved its embassy back to Tel Aviv.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein issued an immediate response, saying that Bolsonaro "is a great friend of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. Thank you very much Brazil!"
"I congratulate my friend the incoming President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, for his intention to move the Brazilian Embassy to Jerusalem," Netanyahu said in a statement issued from Bulgaria, where he is visiting, "This is a historic, just and moving step."
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