Netanyahu to Leave Israel at End of December for Five Days to Attend Bolsonaro's Inauguration in Brazil

Prime minister, who also serves as defense minister and foreign minister is working to ensure embassy moves to Jerusalem despite pressure on president-elect. He is leaving at what he termed a 'sensitive security time'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in Jerusalem, December 12, 2018.
AFP

Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Defense Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to be away from Israel for almost a week at the end of the month, despite claiming the country is going through a "sensitive security time."

According to a statement by his office, Netanyahu will depart for the inauguration Barzil's President-elect Jair Bolsonaro on December 27 and return on January 2, 2019.

Bolsonaro, the extreme right-winger who is supported by Brazil's influential evangelical lobby, will be sworn in on January 1 and has previously expressed his intention to move the Brazilian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

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He may however eventually only recognize the city as Israel's capital without moving the embassy or only recognize West Jerusalem, as Australia recently did, due to growing pressure in Brazil and the Arab world.

Netanyahu, it is assessed, wishes to use the visit to strengthen ties with Bolsonaro and to ensure the latter follows through with the embassy move.

So far, only the United States and Guatemala moved their embassies to Jerusalem. Paraguay had done so but backtracked its decision, in a move that led to a diplomatic crisis with Israel.

Netanyahu referred to the state of security in Israel in a bid to explain why he must keep the defense portfolio following Avigdor Lieberman's resignation and in face of Education Minister Naftali Bennett's demand to replace him.

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit said on Sunday that Netanyahu may hold on to many portfolios, as long as it is a temporary measure. Netanyahu vowed to assign a minister to the Foreign Ministry during January.

Furthermore, Netanyahu's office has justified additional time for completing the upgrade of the prime minister's new airplane, saying the radio and communication equipment installed in the current one are old and problematic. Netanyahu, who also serves as defense minister, would therefore be away at a sensitive time – with no adequate means of communication with officials in Israel.