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  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Brazil's President-elect Jair Bolsonaro leave a synagogue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil December 28, 2018.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Brazil's President-elect Jair Bolsonaro leave a synagogue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil December 28, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 30 December 2018

The Israeli Prime Minister said Bolsonaro told him it was about "when, not if."

During a meeting with members of the Jewish community in Rio de Janeiro, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Brazil will move its embassy to Jerusalem, with the date yet to be decided.

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In Netanyahu’s own words, Bolsonaro told him that it was “when, not if,” regarding the embassy move.

"We attach enormous importance to Brazil, and Brazil in the context of Latin America," the Israeli prime minister said. "This heralds a historic change."

Netanyahu is in Brazil for the swear in ceremony of the far-right future president Jair Bolsonaro, whom he considers a close ally in Latin America, on Jan. 1. He is the first Israeli prime minister to hold an official visit to Brazil.

Both politicians met on Friday to discuss future cooperation regarding defense and other issues, pledging to deepen ties, yet neither of them spoke about the embassy move immediately afterwards.

"Israel is the promised land. Brazil is the land of promise,"  Netanyahu said after Friday’s meeting, adding that Israel could assist Brazil with economics, security, agriculture, and technology.

Bolsonaro said he would visit Israel in March, accepting Netanyahu’s invitation.

Brazil’s president-elect sparked controversy from different sectors in November after announcing his decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem. Several heads of state as well as arab governments protested the decision and threatened to stop trading with Brazil, one of the main exporters of halal meat.

Reuters had access to a letter sent by the Arab League to Bolsonaro, telling him that moving the embassy would be detrimental to Brazil’s relations with Arab countries. Also, the internal agriculture sector warned Bolsonaro about possible negative effects, forcing him to backtrack on the announcement.

If Bolsonaro’s government changes its mind again, Brazil would be the third country to move its embassy to the occupied city, after Guatemala’s Jimmy Morales followed the steps of the U.S.

Brazil has traditionally supported the two-state solution, with East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian government instead of Ramallah, the de facto administrative capital.

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