SAO PAULO (AP) — President-elect Jair Bolsonaro reiterated Thursday that he plans to move Brazil’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, joining the United States and Guatemala.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly welcomed the plan.
In a tweet Thursday, Bolsonaro said: “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.”
It was the first time since being elected Sunday that Bolsonaro referred to his plan to move the embassy.
In Israel, Netanyahu issued a statement praising Bolsonaro. “I congratulate my friend Brazilian President-Elect, Jair Bolsonaro, for his intention to move the Brazilian Embassy to Jerusalem, a historic, correct and exciting step!”
Netanyahu spoke to Bolsonaro earlier this week, congratulating him on his victory and inviting him to visit Israel.
If Bolsonaro follows through on his pledge, Brazil would become the third country to have an embassy in Jerusalem, after the U.S. and Guatemala. Paraguay briefly moved its embassy to Jerusalem as well, only to move it back to Tel Aviv after its new president, Mario Abdo Benitez, was elected.
The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem, which was captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, as the capital of a future state. Israel claims all of the city, including the eastern sector, home to Jerusalem’s most important religious sites, as its eternal capital.
Most countries maintain embassies in Tel Aviv, saying the final status of Jerusalem must be determined through negotiations.
Some Brazilians have raised concerns about the idea, saying it would hurt Brazil’s relations with Muslim nations.
Former Brazilian Ambassador to the U.S. Rubens Barbosa has warned that such a move could hurt Brazil’s poultry exports. He says that Brazil “would be throwing away $6 billion per year in poultry sales to Arab countries.”