JERUSALEM, Israel - Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro prayed at the Western Wall with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Monday during his three-day trip to Israel.
It was the first time a sitting Brazilian president joined Israeli leaders to visit the holiest site in Judaism.
The goal of Bolsonaro's trip is to bring Israel and Brazil together through economic, technological, and security partnerships. The two countries will begin conducting joint scientific and technological research and will collaborate on public security and defense services.
On Sunday, Bolsonaro acknowledged the Jewish people's deep ties to Jerusalem and announced he will open up a Brazilian trade mission in the Holy City.
"Recognizing the historical bonds of Jerusalem with the Jewish identity and also that the city is the political heart of the State of Israel, I announced today that Brazil will open a Brazilian office to promote trade, investment and exchange in innovation and technology," Bolsonaro said in a statement.
Reconhecendo os vínculos históricos de Jerusalém com a identidade judaica e também que a cidade é o coração político do Estado de Israel, anunciei hoje que o Brasil abrirá lá um escritório brasileiro para promoção do comércio, investimentos e intercâmbio em inovação e tecnologia. pic.twitter.com/RfMKEl9XtB
— Jair M. Bolsonaro (@jairbolsonaro) March 31, 2019
Many see the announcement as a small step toward's Bolsonaro's larger goal to move the Brazilian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by the end of his term in 2022.
"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 in a Facebook post last November.
Unlike previous administrations that pursued an aggressive anti-American and anti-Israel foreign policy, Bolsonaro is working to bridge the gap with both countries.
Bolsonaro told CBN News why moving Brazil's embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is so important.
"Each country has the right to decide where its own capital is, and the capital of Israel became Jerusalem, therefore we are studying the possibility of making that decision at the right time. When Trump took over, it took him almost 9 months to make that decision, I'm now in my third month," the president said.
However, Brazilian media reports that Bolsonaro is facing resistance within the government, and some leaders believe it will strain Brazil's relations with Palestinians and the Arab world.
The Palestinian Authority's foreign ministry immediately condemned Brazil's decision to open a trade mission in Jerusalem.
The bureau said in a statement to the Wafa news agency it "considered this position a blatant violation of international legitimacy and its resolutions and a direct aggression against the Palestinian people and their rights, as well as an approval to American and Israeli pressures aimed at perpetuating the occupation and settlement activities, the Judaizing and annexing of occupied Jerusalem, and the forceful imposition of the Israeli law on it."
Meanwhile, Bolsonaro, a devout Christian, says he is relying on God for wisdom.
"Solomon asked God for wisdom...I also ask for courage, to decide on behalf of you." he said while addressing Israeli's Monday evening.
- "Salomão pediu à Deus sabedoria...
- Eu peço também coragem, para bem decidir em nome de vocês."
- Jair Bolsonaro. pic.twitter.com/PXcAKGtqf5
— Jair M. Bolsonaro (@jairbolsonaro) April 1, 2019