Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales has commenced the process of moving his nation’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, following Washington’s recognition of the holy city as Israel’s capital. The announcement comes four days after Guatemala was one of only nine countries to vote against a United Nations General Assembly resolution denouncing the decision by U.S. President Donald Trump.
Guatemala and Israel have long-standing ties, with the former having supported the 1947 UN Partition Plan, in addition to being one of the first countries to officially recognize the Jewish state after its declaration of independence one year later. Guatemala was one of only a handful of nations to initially locate its mission in Jerusalem, which was eventually moved to Israel’s second city amid international pressure.
“Guatemala was the first country in the world to open an embassy in Jerusalem in 1948, which was located opposite the Israeli prime minister’s residence,” Werner W. Loval, Honorary Consul of Guatemala, told The Media Line. “Guatemala was always one of the countries to fight for Israel in international forums, mainly because of the people in charge at the time. The Guatemalan ambassador to the UN, for example, organized trips to former Nazi concentration camps to show others what had happened.”
Of the thirty-three countries to vote in favor of creating a Jewish state out of Mandatory Palestine, a full thirteen were Latin American or Caribbean. In this respect, Mr. Loval believes that Guatemala’s initiative will not only serve to enhance bilateral ties with Israel but also prompt other countries to follow suit. “The relocation will strengthen the historical ties between our two nations, which are strongest at the political level and evidenced by the mutual respect between the peoples. It will affect other Latin American countries as well,” he continued, “as when Guatemala first moved its embassy to Jerusalem other states did so too.”
While Mr. Loval stressed that President Morales—who visited Israel last year, his first official trip outside of the Americas—is serious about relocating the embassy, he revealed to The Media Line that there is still no time frame for the move.
Nevertheless, Israeli leaders across the political spectrum welcomed the prospect, with the Foreign Ministry hailing the “wonderful news and true friendship!!” Israel’s ambassador to Guatemala went a step further, attributing the policy shift to the large evangelical population in the country and the development aid the government receives from Israel.
Guatemala’s decision, however, lies in stark contrast to the overwhelmingly negative global response to President Trump’s declaration, which has manifested in violent rioting in the Palestinian territories fueled by condemnations by every Arab-Islamic country, most of Europe—save for a few states, most notably the Czech Republic and Hungary—and other major powers including China and Russia (the latter of which, ironically, recognized west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in April).
Despite widespread disapproval, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reiterated Monday his contention that other nations will likewise move their embassies to Jerusalem, as the Jewish state continues to make diplomatic inroads. In the past, more than a dozen foreign embassies were located in what Israel considers its undivided capital.
According to Dr. Emmanuel Navon, Professor of International Relations at Tel Aviv University and a Fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Strategic Studies, the Israeli premier’s push may end up paying dividends. “Something needed to trigger the cascade and this was achieved by the U.S. move, which a lot of countries will follow. Also,” he contended to The Media Line, “people predicted major unrest following the announcement but this never materialized. Thus, other countries are asking themselves why not.”