Bolsonaro Backtracks on Jerusalem Embassy Move, Says He May Open 'Business Office' Instead

Bolsonaro, who is slated to arrive in Israel for an official visit on Sunday days before the general election, has said on several occasions that he plans to relocate Brazil's embassy

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

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro backtracked Thursday on his promise to move his country's embassy to Jerusalem, telling reporters that the Brazilian government may open a "business office" in Jerusalem instead. 

Bolsonaro, who said a month after he was elected that he intended to relocate the embassy, is scheduled to arrive in Israel on Sunday just days before the April 9 Knesset election

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Bolsonaro and Netanyahu are slated to sign bilateral agreements during the former's visit and hold an official meeting. The Israeli premier is also scheduled to host Bolsonaro for an official dinner at his residence in Jerusalem. 

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 offical 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.