Bolsonaro visits Western Wall, Palestinians angry at Jerusalem mission

JERUSALEM/BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, accompanied by Israel’s prime minister, visited Jerusalem’s Western Wall on Monday as the Palestinians considered recalling their ambassador in Brasilia over a new trade mission to Israel in the holy city.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, accompanied by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pose for a photo as they visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City. April 1, 2019 Menahem Kahana/Pool via REUTERS

The ancient Western Wall, the most sacred prayer site in Judaism, is located in the eastern part of the city Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed in a move not recognized internationally.

Israel has long considered all of Jerusalem as its eternal, indivisible capital, while Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state they seek in territory Israel captured in the 1967 war.

U.S. President Donald Trump broke global consensus in 2017 by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the U.S. embassy there last May.

Brazil on Sunday opened a new trade mission to Israel in the city, edging back from earlier signals it would follow the United States with a full embassy move.

The Western Wall is a remnant of the compound of a Jewish temple destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. The plaza above known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary is the third holiest site in Islam, containing al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock.

Bolsonaro, on a four-day trip to Israel, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approached the wall together and leaned side-by-side against its massive stones. Bolsonaro placed a prayer note in between the stones, as is customary.

Bolsonaro’s original proposal to move Brazil’s embassy to Jerusalem angered the Muslim world, and senior Brazilian officials backed away from it for fear of damaging ties with Arab countries and jeopardizing billions of dollars in Brazilian halal meat exports.

Presidential spokesman Otavio Rego Barros said on Sunday the trade mission would not be a diplomatic representation, but the move angered the Palestinians.

Palestinian Ambassador in Brasilia Ibrahim Alzeban told Reuters that he may be recalled, although a response was still under consideration.

“From what I was told, it will depend on how (Bolsonaro’s) visit evolves,” Alzeban said. “We wish that the subject of Jerusalem had not been touched upon.”

Alzeban said the Palestinians were also upset because Bolsonaro did not consider a visit to the Palestinian territories and did not coordinate his trip with Palestinian authorities.

Netanyahu has said he hopes Brazil’s Jerusalem trade office is a step toward moving the embassy to the city.

“There is no recognition of Jerusalem as the capital,” Brazilian presidential spokesman Barros said. “Our president continues to evaluate this possibility (of moving the embassy), but that is not what we decided at this time.”

Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu,; Writing by Jake Spring,; Editing by Susan Thomas and Ed Osmond