Brazil to open trade mission in Jerusalem later this month

President Jair Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo to attend December 15 ceremony; Honduras to move embassy to capital ‘in the next few weeks,’ Israeli official says

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speak during a joint press conference at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, on March 31, 2019. (DEBBIE HILL/POOL/AFP)
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speak during a joint press conference at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, on March 31, 2019. (DEBBIE HILL/POOL/AFP)

Brazil is set to open a trade office in Jerusalem next month, Israeli officials said Monday.

Honduras, which already operates a trade mission in the capital, is expected to transfer its embassy to the city in the coming weeks, the officials added.

On December 15, the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency, known as Apex-Brasil, which operates under the auspices of the country’s foreign ministry, will officially open a trade office in Jerusalem’s Har Hotzvim hi-tech park.

However, as opposed to the Jerusalem trade offices of Hungary and Honduras, the Brazilian office will not have diplomatic status, Apex-Brasil’s Clarissa Furtado told The Times of Israel.

Three people — one Brazilian and two local hires — will work from the new Jerusalem office, she said.

A senior delegation of Brazilian lawmakers are expected to attend the office’s opening, said Modi Ephraim, who heads the Latin America Division at Israel’s Foreign Ministry.

“The good relations between Israel and Brazil will be underscored by the upcoming visit of a delegation from the foreign affairs committee of the Brazilian congress, which is headed by Eduardo Bolsonaro, the son of the president [Jair Bolsonaro],” Ephraim told The Times of Israel.

Eduardo Bolsonaro greets students, as he leaves the Santa Casa hospital where his father was hospitalized in Juiz de Fora, Brazil, September 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

In Jerusalem, the younger Bolsonaro, an enthusiastic supporter of Israel, is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, and other senior officials, Ephraim said.

Bolsonaro is on the record calling for Brazil’s embassy to be relocated to Jerusalem, a move his father publicly mulled before and after winning the presidency, but ultimately back away from.

“The question should not be whether we will do it, but when we will do it,” Bolsonaro junior said in November 2018.

About half a year later, when his father visited Israel, Brazil’s foreign ministry in a statement acknowledged that “Jerusalem has been inseparable of the identity of the Jewish people for over three millennia and has become the political heart of the modern and thriving State of Israel,” but stopped short of recognizing the city as Israel’s capital.

During his trip to Israel, Bolsonaro announced the opening of an office in the city “to promote trade, investment, technology and innovation.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the opening of a Honduran trade office in Jerusalem, on September 1, 2019. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/Flash90)

Honduras, which on September 1 opened a trade mission in Jerusalem, is currently “in advanced talks about the opening soon of an Israeli embassy in the capital of Honduras, Tegucigalpa, and about the transfer of Honduran embassy to Jerusalem,” Modi said.

Israeli officials said that despite the Foreign Ministry’s severe budgetary restraints, funds have been secured to open an embassy in Tegucigalpa.

Currently, the Honduran embassy is located in Rishon Lezion, near Tel Aviv. It is expected to move to Jerusalem “in the next few weeks,” one official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

At the inauguration of the Honduran trade mission, located inside the Jerusalem Chamber of Commerce on 10 Hillel Street, President Juan Orlando Hernandez said this office was merely a “first step,” adding that the second step — opening an embassy — would follow in the coming months.

So far, only the US and Guatemala have moved their embassies to the capital. The Czech Republic, Hungary, and Australia have trade office in the city, with varying diplomatic status. Slovakia and Ukraine have pledged to open similar missions in Jerusalem as well.

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