Brazil’s President-elect Jair Bolsonaro and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to deepen ties during a meeting Friday. However, Bolsonaro did not confirm whether his government will move the Brazilian Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the occupied city of Jerusalem.
Netanyahu, a right-wing politician and the first Israeli prime minister to visit Brazil, visited Rio de Janeiro to meet with Bolsonaro, who will assume the presidency on Jan. 1.
“Israel is the promised land. Brazil is the land of promise,” Netanyahu said, adding that Israel could assist Brazil with economics, security, agriculture, and technology.
In response, Bolsonaro said he would visit Israel by March as a gesture of gratitude to Netanyahu.
“We will be starting a difficult government from January, but Brazil has potential,” Bolsonaro said. “(To) overcome obstacles we need good allies, good friends, good brothers, like Benjamin Netanyahu.”
The two men visited a synagogue where Netanyahu emphasized aspirations for a future in which both countries work together in a more aligned and friendly way, expressing his optimism amid the backdrop of snipers on roofs.
Bolsonaro and his top aides have repeatedly stated that he would move Brazil’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a sharp shift in Brazilian foreign policy which has traditionally supported a two-state solution.
The move, which could very well be announced at a later date as political observers have anticipated, would mimic United States President Donald Trump’s decision to do so last December.
“We also welcome President-elect Bolsonaro’s comments regarding moving the Brazilian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv in support of Israel’s sovereign right to have its capital of Jerusalem recognized by nations around the world. We look forward to welcoming many more of our friends and allies in Jerusalem,” a senior U.S. State Department official said Friday.
The Arab League warned in a letter to Bolsonaro that moving the embassy to Jerusalem would be a setback for relations with Arab countries, Reuters reported.
Since the presidential election, powerful backers in the agricultural sector have also pressured Bolsonaro to give up the idea as they fear the decision would harm halal meat sales in Arab countries.
Brazil is the top meat exporter to Muslim-majority countries. According to Salaam Gateway, a Dubai-based online magazine for Islamic culture and lifestyle, halal-certified food and beverage industry was estimated to be worth US$415 billion in 2015.