Brazil’s far-right president-elect Jair Bolsonaro plans to move the embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and will reverse the current policy of state recognition of Palestine.

President-elect Jair Bolsonaro has confirmed to an Israeli newspaper that he will fulfil hia campaign promise to move the Brazilian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The idea is to adopt the same policy as the United States and Guatemala, both of which have already changed the location of their diplomatic posts.

In an interview with the newspaper Israel Hayom, Bolsonaro said he does not recognise Palestine as a nation. ‘Israel is a sovereign state’, he said. ‘If you decide what your capital is, we will follow you. When they asked me during the campaign if I would move the embassy if elected president, I answered yes. You decide on the capital of Israel, not other people’.

The president-elect also said he intends to change the location of the Palestine embassy in Brazil because, he says, it was built ‘very close to the presidential palace’. In the same interview, Bolsonaro said that Brazil would support Israel at the United Nations and other international forums. ‘Palestine needs to be a state first before it has the right to an embassy’, he said.

According to Brazilian media, the fulfilment of that promise could provoke commercial reprisals from Arab countries, which are important markets for Brazilian meats. Israel considers the entire city of Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians aspire for East Jerusalem to become the capital of their future state. For much of the international community, the status of the Holy City must be negotiated between the two parties and the embassies must not settle there until an agreement has been reached.

The South American country has had diplomatic relations with Israel since 1949 and recognised the state of Palestine in 2010. If Brazil confirmed the transfer of its embassy, ​​the decision would break the diplomatic tradition which Brazil has maintained for years in the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Bolsonaro would therefore inaugurate the path opened by US President Donald Trump, who announced last December the transfer his country’s embassy to Jerusalem, a policy which materialised in May. In addition, his recognition of the Holy City as Israel’s capital was a clear nod of support to the Israeli government.

Guatemala then became the first Latin American country to follow Trump’s initiative. The rightwing government of Jimmy Morales moved its embassy to Jerusalem in May. Paraguay also joined the initiative, but backed down four months later and returned the embassy to Tel Aviv after President Mario Abdo took office in August.

After his recent electoral victory, Netanyahu congratulated Bolsonaro by telephone on Monday and invited him to visit Israel. ‘I trust that his election will lead to a great friendship between the two peoples and the strengthening of ties between Brazil and Israel’, the Israeli prime minister predicted. The 63-year-old leader of the Social Liberal Party (PSL) won the elections on 28 October with 55 per cent of the vote, compared to the 45 per cent obtained by progressive candidate Fernando Haddad of the Workers’ Party (PT).

During the election campaign, the ultra-rightist was considered as Brazil’s answer to Donald Trump, in part, because of his confession of admiration for the US president. He also received several complaints over his discriminatory statements against the homosexual community, black people and women, and challenged these voters through aggressive anti-PT rhetoric.

Brazil recognised Palestine as a country in 2010, under the Lula government, a position adopted by the UN in 2012.

Translated by Alborada.

This article was originally published in Spanish in Resumen Latinoamericano.