Brazil Announces Opening Jerusalem 'Business Office' - Instead of Promised Embassy

Bolsonaro, who is in Israel for an official visit nine days before the election, had said on several occasions that he plans to relocate Brazil's embassy

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro embraces Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu upon his arrival at Ben Gurion airport, March 31, 2019.
Guy Batavia

Brazil's Foreign Ministry formally announced Sunday it will open a "business office" in Jerusalem, backtracking on President Jair Bolsonaro's promise to move his country's embassy to Jerusalem.

Netanyahu said Israel and Brazil are at the verge of a new magnificent era of relations. "Brazil is a world power, and Israel, which is an ancient country, is a new technological super-power," he said.

"Brazil decided to create an office in Jerusalem to promote trade, investment, technology and innovation as a part of its embassy in Israel," the Foreign Ministry in Brasilia said in a statement.

In Israel on an official visit nine days before the Israeli election, Bolsonaro met with Netanyahu and his cabinet minister, who signed various bilateral agreements between the two countries. 

Speaking at a joint press conference with Netanyahu, Bolsonaro said "the wedding [between our two countries that] we are celebrating today is going to bring many benefits to both our peoples."

While the leaders met, around 50 Brazilian protesters gathered outside. The Israeli premier is also scheduled to host Bolsonaro for an official dinner at his residence in Jerusalem

FILE Photo: Brazil's then President-elect Jair Bolsonaro greets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, December 28, 2018.
Leo Correa/AP

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Besides pressure from Arab countries not to move the embassy, Brazil’s decision not to move its entire embassy to Jerusalem also reflects the fact that many countries aren’t convinced an embassy move would necessarily help them with the Trump administration, as had been previously thought. This is a result of Trump’s decision to cut all U.S. assistance to Guatemala, the only country in the world that moved its embassy to Jerusalem after the U.S..

Since the U.S. embassy moved to Jerusalem in May, only Guatemala has done the same, with Paraguay moving its embassy and then retracting. Despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's efforts, the European Union has remained united. Hungary opened a trade office in Jerusalem, the Czech Republic opened a cultural center and there is an ongoing struggle in Romania over the issue.

Honduras, which Netanyahu helped via mediation efforts with the United States, recently announced that it will open a trade office in Jerusalem. Netanyahu tried to help convince the Trump administration to support Honduras in return for an embassy move, but his mediation efforts failed.

Australia, whose prime minister is an evangelical Christian, announced the opening of a defense and trade office in the city and recognized West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The Philippines has voiced similar intentions but has not yet changed policy.

Cooperation agreements

The two countries also signed multiple cooperation agreements. The agreements includeed joint cooperation on fighting organized crime, human trafficking, money laundering, weapon and drug trafficking, managing emergency situations and advancing industries and technologies in the area of public security and infrastructure security. In addition, an Israeli public security attaché will be stationed in Brazil for the first time.

According to the agreements, Israel and Brazil will establish a joint team meant to assess and monitor their implementation, and will discuss advancing further work plans between both countries.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said during the signing ceremony: "Israeli security forces are at the forefront of fighting terrorism and combating grave crimes. The Israel Police has acquired vast knowledge and experience in fighting terror and serious crime. In this new era of friendship between Israel and Brazil, there is great potential for a cooperation, which will greatly contribute to the personal security of Israel's citizens."       

"We will always remember Brazil's role in the United Nations plan to partition the then-British-controlled Mandate of Palestine and that of Brazilian envoy Oswaldo Aranha who presided over the UN General Assembly session that voted for the partition of Palestine and for the creation of a Jewish state in 1947," Netanyahu said.

"Ever since my visit to Brazil, the first of a sitting Israeli prime minister, Israel has sent expert teams and delegations to Brazil. [The series of agreements] is only the beginning," the premier said.

Addressing Bolsonaro, Netanyahu said: "I want you know our nation loves Brazil, and that Israel seeks a tight cooperation with Brazil under your leadership."

Transportation and Interim Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz and Brazil's Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo signed bilateral agreements regarding matters of security and aviation.

Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis and his Brazilian counterpart Lt. Col. Marcos Pontes signed a bilateral agreement regarding matters of science and technology.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Brazil's Foreign Ministry will sign an agreement touching on matters of public security.

National Cyber Director Yigal Unna and Brazil's Minister of Institutional Security Augusto Heleno signed a memo of understanding regarding cyber cooperation between the two countries.

Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman and Brazil's Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo signed a memo of understanding on advancing health issues.

U.S. President Donald Trump announced on Saturday plans to cut all American foreign aid to three Latin American that are known to have close ties with Israel: Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

The controversial Brazilian president first declared his intention to move his country's embassy to Jerusalem in a November tweet in which he wrote on his official handle: "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 repeated this intention is similar statements he made during an interview he gave to Israeli daily Israel Hayom. "Israel is a sovereign country. If you decide on your capital, we will proceed accordingly," he said.

Netanyahu visited Brazil in December to meet with Bolsonaro and representatives of Brazil’s Jewish community. While in Brazil, Israeli officials discussed a drone sale with Bolsonaro, according to a senior diplomatic source.

Netanyahu had high hopes Bolsonaro would make the embassy move. In exchange, Israel was expected to offer information and procurement opportunities to assist Bolsonaro’s flagship project, domestic security.

Following a meeting in January with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, Netanyahu said that Bolsonaro told him it was a question of "when, not if" Brazil would move its embassy.