Brazil embassy move to Jerusalem a question of ‘when’ not ‘if’: Netanyahu

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offers his hand to Brazil's President-elect Jair Bolsonaro for a handshake during a joint statement at the military base Fort Copacabana, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Dec. 28, 2018. (AP)
Updated 30 December 2018

Brazil embassy move to Jerusalem a question of ‘when’ not ‘if’: Netanyahu

  • The Arab League had told Bolsonaro that moving the embassy to Jerusalem would be a setback for relations with Arab countries

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazil will definitely move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, with only the date of the transfer to be decided, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday during a visit to Rio de Janeiro.
“It’s not a question of ‘if’ but of ‘when’,” Netanyahu told members of Rio’s Jewish community, his office said in a statement.
He said Brazil’s president-elect Jair Bolsonaro assured him of the move in a meeting on Friday.
He pointed to US President Donald Trump going through with his promise to move his country’s embassy and said “Bolsonaro will also do so.”
The issue of the embassy has been hovering over Netanyahu’s visit to Brazil, the first-ever by an Israeli prime minister.
He arrived on Friday and went straight into his meeting with far-right Bolsonaro, who is to be sworn-in in a ceremony in Brasilia on Tuesday, with Netanyahu among the foreign dignitaries attending.
Bolsonaro said in early November he intended to follow Trump’s lead in moving his country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. But then he backtracked, saying “it hasn’t been decided yet.”
Brazil’s important meat producers are worried that an embassy move could threaten $1 billion in exports to Arab countries.
Those countries, and Palestinians, view east Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
But Israel asserts all of Jerusalem is its capital and is keen to see embassies move there to bolster that claim.
Most countries however back Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to settle Jerusalem’s status as part of a wider peace deal.
Trump broke with that consensus a year ago, and in May this year the US embassy was established in Jerusalem. Guatemala followed suit two days later.
Bolsonaro has said he wants closer ties with the US and Israel, breaking with decades of center-left policies which sought to position Brazil as a Latin American power nurturing relations with all countries.
Netanyahu had told reporters as he flew in to Rio that he was going to raise the embassy topic as a priority when he met Bolsonaro.
In their discussion Friday, Bolsonaro and Netanyahu talked up their budding “brotherhood” which they said would boost military, economic, technological and agricultural cooperation.
Neither man raised the embassy issue when they spoke to journalists shortly afterward, however. Nor did they post anything on it on their Twitter accounts, despite Bolsonaro in particular being a fervent social media user.
Instead Netanyahu said he had extended an invitation to Bolsonaro to visit Israel, which was accepted.
In the statement Sunday from his office, Netanyahu said Bolsonaro’s trip would happen before March 2019.
On Tuesday, the Israeli prime minister is to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for talks on the sidelines of Bolsonaro’s inauguration.
Israel, and other US allies, were caught by surprise by Trump’s abrupt decision this month to pull American troops out of Syria, where they had been fighting remnants of Daesh.
Israel fears the vacuum will allow arch-foe Iran to make greater inroads into Syria, where it is allied with President Bashar Assad.
Netanyahu’s Brazil trip came at a sensitive time for the leader, who is maneuvering to stay in power despite a slew of corruption allegations.
Israel’s parliament last Wednesday approved his government’s decision to call early elections for April 9.


Revealed: How Iran smuggles weapons to the Houthis

Updated 6 min 52 sec ago

Revealed: How Iran smuggles weapons to the Houthis

  • Captured gang tells of route to Yemen through base in Somalia

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: A captured gang of arms smugglers has revealed how Iran supplies weapons to Houthi militias in Yemen through a base in Somalia.

The Houthis exploit poverty in Yemen to recruit fishermen as weapons smugglers, and send fighters to Iran for military training under cover of “humanitarian” flights from Yemen to Oman, the gang said.

The four smugglers have been interrogated since May, when they were arrested with a cache of weapons in Bab Al-Mandab, the strategic strait joining the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.

In video footage broadcast on Yemeni TV, gang leader Alwan Fotaini, a fisherman from Hodeidah, admits he was recruited by the Houthis in 2015. His recruiter, a smuggler called Ahmed Halas, told him he and other fishermen would be based in the Somali coastal city of Berbera, from where they would transport weapons and fuel to the Houthis. 

In late 2015, Fotaini traveled to Sanaa and met a Houthi smuggler called Ibrahim Hassam Halwan, known as Abu Khalel, who would be his contact in Iran. 

This is a complex network that requires constant monitoring, hence the focus on maritime security.

Dr. Theodore Karasik, Security analyst

Pretending to be relatives of wounded fighters, Fotaini, Abu Khalel, and another smuggler called Najeeb Suleiman boarded a humanitarian flight to Oman, and then flew to Iran. They were taken to the port city of Bandar Abbas, where they received training on using GPS, camouflage, steering vessels and maintaining engines.

“We stayed in Bandar Abbas for a month as they were preparing an arms shipment that we would be transporting to Yemen,” Fotaini said.

On Fotaini’s first smuggling mission, his job was to act as a decoy for another boat carrying Iranian weapons to the Houthis. “The plan was for us to call the other boat to change course if anyone intercepted our boat,” he said.

He was then sent to Mahra in Yemen to await new arms shipments. The Houthis sent him data for a location at sea, where he and other smugglers met Abu Khalel with a boat laden with weapons from Iran, which were delivered to the Houthis.

Security analyst Dr. Theodore Karasik said long-standing trade ties between Yemen and Somalia made arms smuggling difficult to stop. “This is a complex network that requires constant monitoring, hence the focus on maritime security,” Karasik, a senior adviser to Gulf State Analytics in Washington, DC, told Arab News.

“The smuggling routes are along traditional lines of communication that intermix with other maritime commerce. The temptation to look the other way is sometimes strong, so sharp attention is required to break these chains.”