Brazil delays embassy move to Jerusalem, opens diplomatic office instead

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who is seen as a strong supporter of Israel, had spoken of following the example of the US and Guatemala, by becoming the third country to relocate its embassy.

Brazilian Presdient Jair Bolsonaro and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu .  (photo credit: KOBI GIDON / GPO)
Brazilian Presdient Jair Bolsonaro and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu .
(photo credit: KOBI GIDON / GPO)
Brazil delayed plans to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem, but announced instead that as a first step in that direction, it would open a trade mission, issuing a statement on the matter while the country’s president Jair Bolsonaro was on a four-day trip to Israel.
“I welcome your decision to open a trade, technology and innovation office, an official office of the Government of Brazil, in Jerusalem,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said when he met with Bolsonaro at his home, where the two issued joint statements.
“I hope that this is a first step toward the opening in time of the Brazilian Embassy in Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said. “I would like to welcome you my friend and say to you and to the entire wonderful delegation that you brought – Welcome to Jerusalem the capital of Israel!”
Brazil does not officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but the opening of the trade office is seen as a nod in that direction.
In a second gesture, Bolsonaro will also visit the Western Wall with Netanyahu on Monday.
Israel had hoped that Bolsonaro would talk about a full embassy relocation, a move that he promised to make three months ago when he became president of Brazil.
But Netanyahu did not allow the set back to dampen Bolsonaro’s festive visit, which began on Sunday morning with a ceremony at Ben-Gurion Airport to greet the Brazilian delegation.
“I love Israel,” Bolsonaro said in Hebrew upon landing. He was greeted by the prime minister and his wife, Sara, for a red carpet welcome that included an honor guard and a special tent that was set up on the tarmac to protect the visitors from rain.
Bolsonaro and Netanyahu then held a working meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office. In its aftermath, ministers from both countries signed six agreements in the arenas of defense, security and cyber security, health, aviation, and science and technology. The meeting was followed by a festive dinner.
“We signed many agreements but the most important agreement is the agreement in the heart. We feel a partnership of values and of outlook in all areas,” Netanyahu said.
At his office, Netanyahu told Bolsonaro: “We are at the dawn of a great era in relations between us – Brazil, which is one of the largest major powers in the world, and Israel, which is an ancient country but a new major technology power.”
He recalled that Brazil had played an important role in the history of the modern State of Israel. Brazilian Osvaldo Aranha was president of the United Nations General Assembly when it voted, in 1947, to recognize the Jewish state.
“We are making history,” Netanyahu told Bolsonaro after he landed.
“When you entered your position in January of this year, we opened a new era in the relations between Brazil and Israel.
“I was at the moving ceremony in which you were sworn in as president and here, after a mere three months, on your first visit outside South America, you have come to Israel in order to bring relations between us to a new height,” he said.
Netanyahu noted that Bolsonaro had come with a large delegation of ministers, parliamentarians and business people.
“This is the largest Brazilian delegation that has ever come to Israel,” Netanyahu said.
The prime minister recalled how, when he visited Brazil, he walked in the streets of its capital.
“I went to the Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro. I went around with Brazilian people and was extraordinarily impressed by the admiration, and love of the Brazilian people for Israel, there is no other way to describe it. I am certain that just as I saw the great admiration for Israel and me in Brazil, you will meet the great admiration for Brazil and for you here in Israel.,” Netanyahu said.
In his speeches in Israel on Sunday, Bolsonaro spoke of the Judeo-Christian values that both nations share.
Bolsonaro mentioned his admiration for Israel and its people. “I’ve always been asked: What can we learn from Israel?” asked Bolsonaro. “I would tell them: We need to have the same faith as they [Israelis] have.”
The Brazilian president concluded: “People of Israel, together our nations can achieve great things.”
Cassandra Gomes-Hochberg contributed to this report.