Bolsonaro welcomes Netanyahu, says nothing about possible embassy move

Brazil is a major exporter of beef to Arab countries, and has come under threats of a boycott if it goes through with Bolsonaro’s pledge to move the embassy.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro  (photo credit: AVI OHAYON - GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro
(photo credit: AVI OHAYON - GPO)
Brazilian President-elect Jair Bolsonaro rolled out the red carpet for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, when the two leaders spoke of a brotherhood between their countries, but neither mentioned the possibility of Brazil moving its embassy to Jerusalem.
Bolsonaro said before and after his election that Brazil would follow the US lead and transfer its embassy to Jerusalem. But in two public appearances with Netanyahu on Friday – at a formal meeting at an army base, and later at an appearance with Netanyahu at a synagogue in Copacabana – he made no mention of the Jerusalem issue.
Even though there was no public mention of the embassy move, an Israeli diplomatic source said that the issue was raised in the private meeting between the two men.
“It is a matter of time,” the official said, likening the situation with the way in which US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2018, and then moved the embassy some six months later. “He [Trump] declared it and carried it out later,” the official said.
Brazil is a major exporter of beef to Arab countries, and has come under threats of a boycott if it goes through with Bolsonaro’s pledge to move the embassy.
Netanyahu arrived in Brazil on Friday morning, landing in Rio de Janeiro for the first-ever visit by an Israeli prime minister to the South American power. He is scheduled to fly to Brasilia on Tuesday and take part in the inauguration of Bolsonaro, whose right wing brand of politics signals a significant change in direction for Brazil, which from 2002 to 2016 was ruled by the left wing Worker’s Party. Brazil-Israel relations during that period were clouded by Brazil’s harsh criticism of Israel’ policies and its strong support for the Palestinians.
Bolsonaro, during a joint statement with Netanyahu at their meeting, welcomed the prime minister by saying that “more than partners,” the two countries “will be brothers in the future, in economy, technology, all that can bring benefit to our two countries.”
Bolsonaro, referring to the domestic issues that faced him after being sworn in next week, said, “we will be starting a difficult government from January, but Brazil has potential.” He said that for his country to overcome obstacles, “we need good allies, good friends, good brothers, like Benjamin Netanyahu.”
Netanyahu invited Bolsonaro to Israel, and the Brazilian leader said he hoped to visit by March – meaning that he hopes to visit before the April 9 Knesset elections.
“What is right between us will be very good for Brazilians and Israelis,” he said. “And why not say it – for much of the world too, because we are demonstrating that these partnerships bring well-being to their people. We want more people to partner with Israel, as well as with us.”
Netanyahu said that his visit to Brazil “heralds a historic moment.” He added that it was “hard to believe” that an Israeli prime minister has not come to Brazil before, “because the brotherhood, the alliance that you mentioned is real, and can carry us to great heights.
“Israel is the promised land. Brazil is the land of land of promise,” Netanyahu said in a line that – after it was translated into Portuguese – brought a small smile to Bolsonaro, who otherwise stood rather expressionless during the statements.
Netanyahu continued: “You have been give the stewardship of this country to realize that promise. We want to be your partners in this effort, we think our cooperation can give both our people tremendous benefits – in the economy, employment, security, agriculture, water, industry, in every domain of human endeavor.”
Netanyahu said that Bolsonaro – the latest in a list of right wing leaders who have catapulted to leadership positions around the world – will be welcomed in Israel as a “great friend, as a great ally, as a brother.”
After meeting Bolsonaro privately, the two were joined by the Brazilian president’s incoming foreign minister, Ernesto Araujo; incoming defense minister, Fernando Azevedo e Silva; incoming finance minister Paul Guedes; and Bolsonaro’s son, Eduardo, who is also a Brazilian parliamentarian.
After the meeting, the two attended an event just prior to the onset of Shabbat at the Orthodox Kehilat Yaacov synagogue in Copacabana. Bolsonaro said that “we are opening a new era in ties, and making history. Our joint future will be excellent.”
Brazil is particularly keen on cooperating with Israel in the fields of security and water technology. Bolsonaro announced last week that his future minister of science and technology, Marcos Pontes, will go to Israel in January to visit water desalination plants since Brazil is facing severe water problems in the northeast part of the country.
On Sunday, Netanyahu is scheduled to meet separately with leading Brazilian journalists, leaders of the Jewish community; leaders of the Evangelical community; and Honduras president Juan Orlando Hernandez. The possibility of Honduras moving its embassy to Jerusalem is expected to be discussed in the meeting with Hernandez.