Guatemala Follows US Lead on Jerusalem; Netanyahu: "It's Only The Beginning"

by PATRICK GOODENOUGH December 29, 2017

After Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales announced his country will follow President Trump's lead on Jerusalem as Israel's capital and move its embassy to the city, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu suggested that the logjam is starting to break.

Morales, an evangelical Christian, announced on his Facebook page that during a conversation with Netanyahu they had discussed "the excellent relations that we have had as nations since Guatemala supported the creation of the state of Israel."

"One of the most important topics was the return of the embassy of Guatemala to Jerusalem," he added. "So I inform you that I have instructed the chancellor [foreign minister] to initiate the respective coordination, so that it may be."

Addressing Israel's Knesset on Christmas Day, Netanyahu said, "God bless you, my friend, President Morales. God bless both our countries - Israel and Guatemala. We are waiting for you here in Jerusalem."

To lawmakers, Netanyahu added, "I told you recently that there will be other countries that would recognize Jerusalem and announce the transfer of their embassies to it. Well here is the second country and I reiterate: It's only the beginning and it is important."

The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City praised the decision, saying on Twitter it welcomed the "historic decision" of Morales and the Guatemalan government.

In Jerusalem, Israel's deputy prime minister Tzipi Hotovely told Israel radio that at least ten other countries were in talks over the possibility of moving their diplomatic missions to Jerusalem.

She did not name them, but Israeli media outlets speculated that they could include some of the handful of countries that voted against last week's U.N. General Assembly resolution condemning Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and demanding that the move be rescinded.

The resolution passed by 128-9, with 35 countries abstaining, and another 21 not voting.

Guatemala was one of the eight countries to vote with the United States on December 21. Afterwards Guatemala's official news agency quoted Morales as saying of the vote count, "Even though there were only nine of us from across the world, we have total certainty and conviction that this is the correct route."

The other "no" votes - in support of the U.S. position - came from Guatemala's neighbor, Honduras, the small African nation of Togo, the Pacific island nations of Nauru, Palau, Marshall Islands and Micronesia, and Israel itself.

Honduras could be next to announce an embassy shift. The country has strong relations with Israel, which agreed last year to help the country refurbish its air force assets. (The country is, however, dealing with controversy over the recent re-election of conservative President Juan Orlando Hernández. The U.S. has recognized his victory, but the Organization of American States has called for a revote, citing allegations of fraud.)

It would arguably be fitting for Latin American nations to be in the forefront of any return of embassies to Jerusalem.

The last three countries to join the exodus from Israel's capital were all from the region - Bolivia, Costa Rica and El Salvador.

Their three embassies remained in Jerusalem two decades after 13 other nations, including Guatemala, in 1980 moved their embassies out of the city, under Arab oil boycott threats and in line with a Security Council resolution, following the passage of an Israeli law declaring Jerusalem its "eternal, undivided capital."

Costa Rica and El Salvador were the final holdouts, finally withdrawing from Jerusalem a little over a decade ago.

Russia recognized western Jerusalem as Israel's capital last April, and the Czech Republic followed suit shortly after Trump's December 6 announcement.

Courtesy of 

Patrick covered government and politics in South Africa and the Middle East before joining in 1999. Since then he has launched foreign bureaus for in Jerusalem, London and the Pacific Rim. From October 2006 to July 2007, Patrick served as Managing Editor at the organization's world headquarters in Alexandria, Va. Now back in the Pacific Rim, as International Editor he reports on politics, international relations, security, terrorism, ethics and religion, and oversees reporting by's roster of international stringers.

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