Bolsonaro risks provoking negative reactions with his intent to change the location of the diplomatic office in Israel

In the meager space foreign policy has in Jair Bolsonaro’s administrative plan, Israel is mentioned as an important democracy that should not be “despised or even attacked.”

In an effort to build a closer relationship with the Jewish state, the president-elect has stated he intends to fulfill his promise to transfer the Brazilian Embassy in that country from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — which would mean the acknowledgement of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, contrary to the wishes of the UN and almost the entire international community.

If such a maneuver actually occurs, there will be a significant change in tone in the position Brazilian diplomacy takes regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Historically, Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has favored a dialogue in search of a two-state solution and negotiation on the status of Jerusalem.

It is this paper’s understanding that this is the path that should be followed, and it would do Brazil good to maintain equidistance on this dispute, also because of the fact that the country is a pacific home to both expressive Jewish and Arab communities.

Despite Bolsonaro’s claiming he sees no issues regarding this matter, his intention to relocate the diplomatic office has spiked an almost immediate reaction from the countries that support the Palestinians. In unmistakable retaliation, Egypt cancelled the reception planned for Chancellor Aloysio Nunes.*

The captain’s** intent to relocate the Palestinian Embassy in Brasilia because of its closeness to the Presidential Palace has also caused dissatisfaction among the Islamic population.

Although symbolic for now, the onus could be borne economically, in the case that Arab nations back a boycott. This group constitutes the second-biggest buyer of Brazilian animal protein, and the total volume of business dramatically surpasses that which is shared with Israel.

There are some hypotheses as to what drives the president-elect in this controversy. Since he has the support of a great portion of the evangelical electors, who are mostly sympathetic toward Israel, a gesture of this magnitude to that country would certainly serve a political agenda.

So far, we cannot overlook the possibility that Bolsonaro is inspired by Donald Trump, whom he so openly admires.

In February, the head of the White House declared the relocation of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem – a move followed, up until now, by Guatemala only.

The Brazilian already emulates the American in distasteful aspects, such as the hostile treatment towards the press. This Tuesday (Nov. 6), Bolsonaro got upset when being questioned about Egypt’s suspending the visit of Brazilian representatives. When questioned by journalists, he turned his back on them. Later, he stated that the matter was not yet decided.

In the morning, he tried to bar the presence of reporters in the Chamber of Deputies, where he participated in a ceremony. Surely, he is well aware of his own difficulty in exposing complex ideas and dealing with people that are not his cheerleaders.

*Editor’s note: Nunes is Brazil’s minister of foreign affairs.

**Editor’s note: Bolsonaro is a former army captain.