BRASÍLIA – The Arab League told Brazil’s right-wing president-elect Jair Bolsonaro that moving the Brazilian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem would be a setback for relations with Arab countries, in a letter seen by Reuters on Monday.
Such a move by Bolsonaro, who takes office on January 1, would constitute a radical shift in Brazilian foreign policy, which has traditionally supported a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Arab country ambassadors are expected to meet in Brasilia on Tuesday to discuss Bolsonaro’s plan to follow US President Donald Trump’s decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, according to the Arab diplomat who asked not to be named.
FILE – Brazil’s President-elect Jair Bolsonaro arrives for a meeting in Brasilia, November 20, 2018.
The letter to Bolsonaro from League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit and delivered to the Brazilian Foreign Ministry stated that the decision to locate an embassy was the sovereign decision of any country.
“However, Israel’s situation is not normal, given that it is a country which occupies the Palestinian territories by force, including East Jerusalem,” the letter said.
Moving the embassy to Jerusalem would be considered a violation of international law and United Nations National Security Council resolutions, Aboul Gheit said.
The embassy’s decision has been hailed as “historic” by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who plans to attend Bolsonaro’s presidential inauguration, according to Brazil’s transition team.
“The Arab world has a lot of respect for Brazil and we want not only to maintain relations, but also to improve and diversify them. But the intention to move the embassy to Jerusalem could harm them,” the diplomat said.
Brazil is one of the world’s leading exporters of halal meat and this trade could run into trouble if Bolsonaro anger the Arab nations by moving the embassy. This could hurt exports to key Middle Eastern markets for Brazilian beef and poultry producers BRF SA and JBS SA.
Halal meat is cut and prepared in accordance with Muslim law.
The meat exporters lobby urged the new president not to move the embassy, and he appeared to change his mind.
But the president-elect’s son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, speaking after recently visiting Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner in the White House, said the embassy move was “not about if, but by when “.