Netanyahu: Brazil Embassy Move to Jerusalem a Matter of ‘When, Not If’

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. Despite earlier reports, Netanyahu plans to attend the inauguration of Bolsonaro on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019 in Brasilia. …
Leo Correa/Pool Photo via AP

TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Brazilian Jewish leaders on Sunday that Brazilian President-elect Jair Bolsonaro revealed moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was a matter of “when, not if.”

“Mr Bolsonaro also said this: I will move the embassy to Jerusalem. It’s not a question of if, just a question of when,” Netanyahu said.

His comments came after the Israeli premier sat down with Bolsonaro on Friday.

The two leaders spoke of a “brotherhood” between their two countries, with promises to strengthen economic, military and technological ties in the future but there was no public mention of Bolsonaro’s promise to relocate the Brazilian embassy.

However, according to an Israeli diplomatic source the issue was raised in a closed-door meeting.

“It is a matter of time,” the source said of the move, according to the Jerusalem Post. The source added that it would likely pan out as it did with the U.S., with President Donald Trump making a formal declaration and moving the embassy several months later.

Bolsonaro’s embassy declaration prompted ire from Arab countries, with threats from the Arab League to boycott Brazil’s beef exports. Almost 20 percent of Brazil’s $5 billion in beef exports goes to 17 Arab countries. Bolsonaro later attempted to walk back the promise, saying “it hasn’t been decided yet.”

Reuters on Sunday quoted an incoming government official as saying that the matter was still undecided.

The president-elect promised to make his own visit to Israel in the future, Netanyahu said.

The two met at a synagogue in Copacabana where the enthusiastic crowd greeted them with cheers and chants of “Bibi! Bibi!”

“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,” Netanyahu told congregants. “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.”

“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.”

“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.”

Netanyahu is set to attend Bolsonaro’s inauguration in Brasilia on Tuesday. Until then, he took the time to relax with his wife Sara and a bucket of beer at Rio de Janeiro’s famous Copacabana restaurant as well as meet fans on the beach.

“After a marathon of very successful state meetings in Brazil, we went out to meet the people on the street,” Netanyahu posted on Twitter. “Massive love for the State of Israel!”

The tweet was accompanied by a video of Netanyahu receiving a bear hug from a Brazilian woman on a beach, followed by the Israeli premier kicking a soccer ball with a shirtless man.

“We will be starting a difficult government from January, but Brazil has potential,” Bolsonaro said Friday. “So that we can overcome obstacles, we need good allies, good friends, good brothers, like Benjamin Netanyahu.”

Netanyahu, who is the first Israeli prime minister to visit Brazil, described the South American country as a “superpower.”

“We are forming an alliance with a superpower that has close to a quarter of a billion civilians,” Netanyahu said. “This is another sign that Israel is a rising power in the world.”

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