Israeli source insists Brazil embassy move to Jerusalem ‘a matter of time’
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Israeli source insists Brazil embassy move to Jerusalem ‘a matter of time’

Official asserts relocation is in the cards despite no mention during PM’s trip: ‘Situation similar to Trump’s declaration. He declared it and carried it out later on’

Brazil's President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, left, and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands during a joint statement at the military base Fort Copacabana, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Dec. 28, 2018. (Leo Correa/Pool Photo via AP)
Brazil's President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, left, and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands during a joint statement at the military base Fort Copacabana, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Dec. 28, 2018. (Leo Correa/Pool Photo via AP)

An Israeli government source insisted Saturday that Brazil’s embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was merely “a matter of time,” and that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Brazilian President-elect Jair Bolsonaro had discussed the matter during their meeting Friday.

“The situation is similar to [US President Donald] Trump’s declaration” that he planned to move the US embassy in December of 2017, the source said. “He declared it and he carried it out later on.” The US embassy move took place in May of 2018, six months after Trump stated his intention to do so.

Netanyahu had announced his trip to Brazil following a November 1 tweet from Bolsonaro indicating he intends to move the Brazilian Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, following in Trump’s footsteps. Bolsonaro later backtracked by saying “it hasn’t been decided yet.”

On Friday, Bolsonaro said he expects to visit Israel by March 2019, after accepting an invitation by Netanyahu.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) is welcomed by Brazil’s President-elect Jair Bolsonaro at the Copacabana fort in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on December 28, 2018. (Photo by Leo CORREA / POOL / AFP)

Netanyahu arrived in Brazil on Friday, accompanied by his wife Sarah and son Yair, and the family is set to stay on through Tuesday to join other foreign dignitaries at the inauguration in Brasilia of Bolsonaro, a far-right, security-conscious politician and former army officer who was elected in October on pledges to crack down on endemic crime and corruption.

“We will be starting a difficult government from January, but Brazil has potential,” Bolsonaro said, indicating that the Israel visit would come, in part, to reciprocate Netanyahu’s trip to Brazil. “So that we can overcome obstacles, we need good allies, good friends, good brothers, like Benjamin Netanyahu.”

Netanyahu’s is the first-ever visit by an Israeli prime minister to Brazil.

Following a private meeting Friday in a century-old military fort on Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beach, the two issued the warm words to the media, hailing a nascent “brotherhood” between their countries that will boost economic, military, and technological cooperation.

Breaking the rules of history

They then visited a local synagogue, where Netanyahu told congregants: “President Bolsonaro said that this is not just a friendship or an alliance of interests [between Brazil and Israel] but also an alliance of brothers… With cooperation and brotherhood it is possible to achieve things that cannot be imagined. We agreed between us on the way to take this cooperation to new heights.”

The Jewish people, Netanyahu added, are “breaking of the rules of history. Many peoples were exiled from their lands; they all disappeared, found new lands or were absorbed into other peoples. The Jewish people are the only one that refused to find a new land, or be absorbed. We remained faithful to our land and for thousands of years we said ‘Next Year in Jerusalem.’ We did not lose hope even through pogroms, the expulsion from Spain, the expulsion from Portugal and pogroms in Europe, and not even during the awful pogroms under the Nazis. We always said ‘Next Year in Jerusalem.’

“Jewish communities around the world, who supported their brothers, shared in this hope. This included the Jewish community in Brazil the roots of which go back to the Portuguese migration here and afterwards, after the expulsion from Spain. They came and were welcomed here in the new world, but supported the dream of the return to Zion. Be proud of Brazil, love Brazil and want to see the return to Zion – ‘Next Year in Jerusalem.'”

Brazil’s President-elect Jair Bolsonaro (L) and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) are pictured upon arrival at a synagogue in the Copacabana neighborhood, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on December 28, 2018. (Leo CORREA / POOL / AFP)

In Brazil and Bolsonara, he said, “We now have a new friend who knows the hardships of history, the sources of our mutual culture and the great challenges that face us in ensuring the future… I am honored to tell you that very soon we will host the President of Brazil, a friend of Israel, Jair Bolsonaro, in Jerusalem. Next year in our rebuilt and united Jerusalem.”

Brothers in the future

Bolsonaro, sometimes called the “Trump of the tropics” for a similar style to US President Donald Trump and rejection of multilateral diplomacy, emphasized the bond he wants to build with Netanyahu, a firm US ally.

But there was no mention of Bolsonaro’s post-election declaration of the embassy move during Friday’s press conference.

“More than partners, we will be brothers in the future, in economy, technology, all that can bring benefit to our two countries,” Bolsonaro said. He also spoke of cooperation in military and agriculture matters.

Netanyahu, calling his visit “historic,” also spoke of “the brotherhood, the alliance” the two planned as something that “can carry us to great heights.”

“Through our mutual cooperation, enormous benefits will be created for our two peoples,” Netanyahu said. “It’s hard to believe that we had no such contacts before,” he added.

Brazil and Israel have previously had cordial but strained relations.

The leftist Workers Party, which had dominated Brazilian politics for 13 years before Bolsonaro’s election, often showed support for the Palestinian independence movement. But Bolsonaro and Netanyahu have developed an increasingly warm relationship with similar views on security issues.

Netanyahu had told reporters on his flight to Brazil that “you can be certain I will speak with him about [the embassy] in our first meeting.” But neither man raised the topic in their comments to media, and no questions were taken.

An embassy move could put at risk lucrative Brazilian poultry and halal meat exports to Arab countries, which fiercely oppose any unilateral moves seen as cementing Israel’s claim to all of Jerusalem as its capital.

The Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, and most countries in the world back a longstanding consensus that Jerusalem’s status can only be resolved through negotiations and as part of an Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Nearly 20 percent of Brazil’s $5 billion beef exports go to 17 Arab countries. Brazil-Israel trade currently amounts to $1.2 billion.

In preparation for his tenure as president, Bolsonaro has sent aides to Israel to study desalination technology and to investigate the potential purchase of drones for use by Brazilian security forces.

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