Brazil’s President-elect, Jair Bolsanaro, has promised to shift the South American nation’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, following in the footsteps of President Donald Trump, who made the landmark move in May of this year.
The incoming leader of Brazil and former army captain announced his plans on Twitter Nov. 1:
“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 wrote.
Bolsonaro, a staunch conservative, has been nicknamed the “Trump of the tropics,” for his political similarities to the Commander-in-Chief.
Trump tweeted his congratulations to Bolsonaro for the politician’s narrow run-off election victory on October 28:
Had a very good conversation with the newly elected President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, who won his race by a substantial margin. We agreed that Brazil and the United States will work closely together on Trade, Military and everything else! Excellent call, wished him congrats!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 29, 2018
“When I was asked during the campaign if I’d do it when I became president, I said, ‘Yes, the one who decides on the capital of Israel is you, not other nations,’” Bolsonaro told Hebrew newspaper Israel Hayom of his decision to re-locate the embassy.
As you can imagine, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was ecstatic with the news.
“I congratulate my friend, the president-elect of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro, for his intention to move the Brazilian embassy to Jerusalem,” he said in a statement, according to The Times of Israel. “This is a historic, correct and moving step.”
Israel considers the historic city as its capital, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of its future state. Much of the international community sees the city as a middle-ground, the borderlines of which must be negotiated between two sides as part of a so-called “two-state solution.”
“Bolsonaro is very pro-Israel,” said Juan Carlos Hidalgo, a Latin America expert at the Cato Institute in Washington, according to The Hill. “I wouldn’t be surprised if one of his first moves was to move the embassy to Jerusalem.”
As for the presence of a Palestinian embassy in Brazil, the President-elect is crystal clear in his views.
“Is Palestine a country? Palestine is not a country, so there should be no embassy here,” he previously remarked.
The President-elect has also stated that his first foreign trips as President will be to the state of Israel, the United States and Chile — countries that, according to Bolsonaro’s future chief of staff Onyx Lorenzoni, “share our worldview.”
The electorate cast 55.2 percent votes in favor of Bolsonaro and 44.8 percent in favor of Fernando Haddad, leader of the left-wing Workers’ Party. A self-defined pro-life conservative, this month Bolsonaro pledged to protect the unborn at all costs in an agreement with Brazilian Cardinal Orani Tempesta.
“We are signing a commitment defending the family, defending the innocence of children in the schools, defending the freedom of religion, against abortion and the legalization of drugs,” the President-elect said at the time, according to LifeSite News.
He also recently declared that “the money of Brazilians will not finance NGOs that promote [abortion].”
Bolsonaro, 63, leads the Social Liberal Party (PSL), which is known to be an anti-establishment group that seeks to employ social conservatism mixed with pro-market policies.
The shock election result speaks of a massive shift to the right after hard leftists claimed the last four elections. But the left has not allowed Bolsonaro rise to prominence without relentless and fierce attempts to hold him back by any means possible. He has been subject to intense criticism in the media and was even physically attacked at a campaign rally last year when a left-wing extremist plunged a knife into his abdomen, causing him to lose 40 percent of his blood. The President-elect required emergency surgery, but received widespread support for continuing on with his campaign despite being confined to his hospital bed, taking to social media instead of making speeches on the campaign trail.
Bolsonaro also gained widespread support for his rhetoric on rooting out government corruption and tackling Brazil’s spiraling crime rates head-on. On Thursday, it was announced that the President-elect would appoint anti-corruption judge Sergio Moro to lead the country’s justice ministry. Moro was largely responsible for the conviction of the former Brazilian President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who was jailed for 12 years last April on corruption charges, despite being a frontrunner in the election race.
“Federal Judge Sergio Moro has accepted our invitation to be minister of justice and public security. His anti-corruption, anti-organized crime agenda and his respect for the constitution and the law will be our guiding principle!” Bolsonaro announced on Twitter after the two men met in Rio de Janeiro.
According to the BBC, Moro, who spearheaded the anti-corruption investigation “Operation Car Wash,” noted that he had “accepted the invitation as an honor.”
The President-elect has, however, made some unpopular remarks in the past. In a 2016 interview, he commented on female employment, noting that “because women get more labor rights than men, meaning they get maternity leave, the employer prefers to hire men,” before adding, “I would not employ [a woman] with the same salary [of a man]. But there are many women who are competent.”
He has also vowed to enact a brutal crackdown on criminal activity. On the campaign trail, Bolsonaro said that “a good criminal is a dead criminal. There will be no shortage of places to send criminals,” the President-elect said of his solution to the crime problem.
“We’ll dig graves, and as to prisons, if necessary we’ll put them on ships,” he said.
Despite his unsettling remarks on crime-fighting strategy, there is no doubt that day-to-day violence is absolutely skyrocketing on the streets of the South American nation. According to the Brazilian Forum of Public Security, this year’s murder rate is currently 30.8 per 100,000 people, up from 29.9 in 2016. By way of comparison, the United States had just five homicides per 100,000 people in 2015.
Bolsonaro’s outlandish comments on law and order have been compared to the President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, who, in 2016, said that he used to “personally kill” criminals to “show to the guys [police officers] that if I can do it, why can’t you.”
“I’d go around in Davao with a motorcycle, with a big bike around, and I would just patrol the streets, looking for trouble also,” Duterte added, according to the Guardian. “I was really looking for a confrontation so I could kill.”
Bolsonaro will take office on Jan. 1, 2019.