Arab League warns Brazil's Bolsonaro over 'harmful' Israel embassy move

Arab League warns Brazil's Bolsonaro over 'harmful' Israel embassy move
Moving the Israel embassy to Jerusalem would be a sharp shift in Brazilian foreign policy which has supported a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for more than 50 years.
2 min read
11 December, 2018
Brazil's President-elect Jair Bolsonaro wants to follow in Trump's footsteps [Getty]

The Arab League has told Brazil's incoming president Jair Bolsonaro that following the US by moving its Israel embassy to Jerusalem would "harm" ties with Arab nations.

A letter seen by Reuters from the league's Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit to Brazil's foreign ministry said the move was a sovereign decision for a country. "However the situation of Israel is not normal, seeing that it is a country that has been occupying Palestinian territories by force - among them East Jerusalem," the letter said.

The far-right former army captain Bolsonaro, who takes office in the new year, has said he would deliver on his campaign promise and move the embassy from Tel Aviv, echoing US President Donald Trump's decision in May this year. He walked back that statement a few days later, stating that "it hasn't yet been decided".

Bolsonaro has also previously said he would close the Palestine mission in Brasilia.

Such moves would be a dramatic shift in Brazilian foreign policy, which has backed a two-state solution in Israel and Palestine for more than 50 years and formally recognised the Palestinian state in 2010.

Israel considers the entire holy city its capital, while the Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, with international consensus being that the status of the whole city must be negotiated between the two sides.

Israel occupied east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.

Read more: Guns and Christians: Explaining Bolsonaro's Israel embassy move

Moving the embassy to Jerusalem would be a violation of international law and UN Security Council resolutions, Aboul Gheit said.

Arab nations have previously expressed their concern over Bolsonaro's announcement of a potential embassy move. A senior Palestinian official branded the proposal "provocative and illegal", while a spokesman for Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, called it "hostile".

Trade ties are also under threat. Brazil is the world's biggest producer of halal meat, with much of it exported to Arab states and nations in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, which includes 57 countries.

The halal-certified food and beverage industry was valued at $415 billion in 2015, with Brazil's exports estimated at nearly $16 billion.

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