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Palestine to lobby Brazil's Bolsonaro against Jerusalem embassy move

Brazil's new far-right president Jair Bolsonaro is ardently pro-Israel. [Getty]

Date of publication: 6 November, 2018

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Brazil's new far-right president Jair Bolsonaro announced the Jerusalem embassy relocation plan during his election campaign, following the lead of the United States.

The Palestinian envoy to Brazil said Monday he hoped President-elect Jair Bolsonaro's pledge to relocate Brasilia's embassy in Israel to Jerusalem was simply campaign talk and would lobby the new government against the move.

"Let's hope it's a campaign announcement. We are hoping that (the incoming government) will maintain Brazil's traditional position, respectful of the United Nations resolutions on the issue," Ibrahim Alzeben told AFP.

East Jerusalem is considered occupied Palestinian territory under international law, and Palestinian officials have condemned Bolsonaro's embassy announcement as "provocative".

However Alzeben - the Palestinian ambassador in Brazil since 2008 - dismissed as "premature" any notion of hardening the Palestinian tone with the incoming far-right government.

Alzeben said from this week - when Bolsonaro begins his transition to power - the Palestinian mission will intensify efforts to dissuade the new government from breaking with years of diplomatic tradition.

Alzeben believes the decision can be reversed before Bolsonaro is sworn in. 

"We have two months for diplomacy to do its job," he said, adding that his side was in touch with Bolsonaro's team over what he considered a "very important issue". 

"I doubt that the elected government does not want peace for that region," he added.

Bolsonaro, who takes office on 1 January, has yet to make the key announcement of who his foreign minister will be.

The far-right former army captain is ardently pro-Israel and in August vowed to move the Brazilian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, while closing the Palestinian embassy in Brasilia.

"Is Palestine a country? Palestine is not a country, so there should be no embassy here," he said. "You do not negotiate with terrorists."

On Thursday Bolsonaro tweeted that "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," he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu hailed the move as "historic". 

Brazil formally recognized the Palestinian state in 2010, during the term of leftist president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. 

In 1975, under the military dictatorship, Brazil recognised the Palestine Liberation Organisation as a national liberation movement. It authorised the opening of a Palestinian mission in Brasilia in 1993, according it embassy status five years later.

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