Brazil opens Israel trade mission in Jerusalem, short of full embassy move

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro meet at Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem, March 31, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 31 March 2019
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Brazil opens Israel trade mission in Jerusalem, short of full embassy move

JERUSALEM: Brazil opened a new trade mission to Israel in Jerusalem on Sunday, appearing to edge back from earlier signals it would follow the United States by moving its full embassy to the contested city.
The announcement came during a visit by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro — an outspoken admirer of President Donald Trump who broke global consensus by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in late 2017 and moving the US embassy there last May.
Bolsonaro had suggested in January he would follow suit with the embassy. That could have been a boost for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who hopes to win a fifth term in an election next week.
But Brazilian senior officials later backed away from the idea, for fear of damaging trade ties with Arab countries.
“Brazil decided to create an office in Jerusalem to promote trade, investment, technology and innovation as a part of its embassy in Israel,” the Foreign Ministry in Brasilia said in a statement.
As with most other countries, the Brazilian embassy is in Tel Aviv.
“Obrigado (thanks) for opening a diplomatic office in Jerusalem!” acting Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz tweeted.
Netanyahu has sought to burnish his statecraft and security credentials during the election campaign in the face of a popular centrist challenger, former armed forces chief Benny Gantz.
BOLSONARO: “I LOVE ISRAEL”
Greeting Bolsonaro at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport, Netanyahu said he and the Brazilian leader would visit Judaism’s Western Wall in Jerusalem.
“I love Israel,” Bolsonaro said in Hebrew at the ceremony.
Brazil has not officially recognized Jerusalem’s as Israel’s capital. Most world powers say the status of the city should only be decided as part of a peace process with the Palestinians.
Israel captured East Jerusalem along with the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 Middle East war. Palestinians seek to establish a state in the two territories, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Visiting Brazil for the Jan. 1 presidential inauguration, Netanyahu said Bolsonaro had told him that moving the Brazilian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem was a matter of “when, not if.”
But Bolsonaro’s economic team and the country’s powerful farm lobby have advised against relocating the embassy.
In an interview in February, Brazilian Vice President Hamilton Mourao, a retired army general, told Reuters that moving the embassy was a bad idea because it would hurt Brazil’s exports to Arab countries, including an estimated $5 billion in sales of halal food that comply with Muslim dietary laws.
Separately on Sunday, Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said Brazilian state-run oil firm Petrobras would take part in Israel’s latest tender for offshore oil and gas exploration.


Warning to Turkish artists as singer is jailed for ‘insulting’ Erdogan

Updated 21 July 2019
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Warning to Turkish artists as singer is jailed for ‘insulting’ Erdogan

  • Actress and singer Zuhal Olcay was charged with insulting Erdogan using hand gestures at a concert in Istanbul in 2016
  • Turkey’s appeals court has upheld an 11-month sentence, originally imposed last year but suspended

ANKARA: Accusations of insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may lead to a jail sentence — even if the “insult” is in private, analysts told Arab News on Saturday.

Turkey’s appeals court has upheld an 11-month sentence on actress and singer Zuhal Olcay, 61, after a complaint that she had changed lyrics of songs and used hand gestures to insult the president at a concert in Istanbul in 2016.

The revised lyrics said: “Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it’s all empty, it’s all a lie. Life will end one day and you’ll say ‘I had a dream’.” Olcay said she had changed the lyrics only because the president’s name fitted the rhyme.

The court confirmed a sentence originally imposed last year, which had been suspended. The singer is expected to spend up to three days in prison, before being released on probation.

“This case highlights the blurring of the public and private spheres.”

Louis Fishman Academic

“Zuhal Olcay is an artist with great stature, and this case shows that no one is out of reach of a judiciary that increasingly has little independence from the government,” Louis Fishman, an assistant professor at City University of New York, told Arab News.

“The message is clear; artists in Turkey should be silent or face legal consequences that can be drawn out for years and eventually lead to prison,” said Fishman, an expert on Turkey.

He said it was significant that the hand gesture at the center of the case had happened at a private concert, and the prosecution began only after it was reported to police by someone in the audience.

“Therefore, this case also highlights the blurring of the public and private spheres,” he said. 

“In other words, there is a growing fear in Turkey of criticizing, or ‘defaming’ Erdogan, not only in public, but also in private. In both cases, vigilant citizens can report such alleged cases to the police.”