Brazil’s President-elect Jair Bolsonaro suggested he may reconsider moving his country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, after Egypt decided to defer a scheduled visit from Brazil’s top diplomat.
While Egypt’s foreign ministry cited on Monday scheduling issues as the reason for the postponement, diplomatic sources reportedly said the cancellation stemmed from Bolsonaro’s controversial embassy plans and that a new meeting date was not proposed, according to Reuters.
Brazil’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Aloysio Nunes Ferreira was meant to head to Cairo for a few days on November 8th until the 11th to meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and his counterpart Sameh Shoukry.
On Tuesday, the Brazilian president-elect walked back from his previous stated intention to move the embassy, insisting instead that “it hasn’t been decided yet.”
“From what I know, it’s due to a calendar problem,” he said, adding, “It would be premature for a country to take retaliatory measures against something that hasn’t yet been decided,” performing an almost Trumpian about-turn.
“As previously stated during our campaign, we intend to transfer the Brazilian Embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem. Israel is a sovereign state and we shall duly respect that,” Bolsonaro tweeted just last week.
In an interview with the daily Israel Hayom published Thursday, the president-elect said he intends to defy the Palestinians and most of the world by moving his country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Sparking ire from the Arab world, the Palestinian envoy to Brazil, Ibrahim Alzeben, said on Monday that he hoped Bolsonaro had merely been electioneering and that the incoming government would “maintain Brazil’s traditional position.”
The incoming Brazilian president would please his evangelical Christian support base by moving the embassy to Jerusalem, but he would break with a half century of diplomacy.
In following the lead of his US counterpart Donald Trump, Latin America’s biggest country would not only isolate the country diplomatically but also run the risk of provoking commercial retaliation from Arab states, some of which are major importers of Brazilian meat.
Brazil would become the third country after the United States and Guatemala to make the controversial move. Paraguay, in a shock move in September, backtracked on its pledge to move its own embassy to the disputed holy city, and Honduras, which has backed a move in principle, has yet to move forward with relocation.