Israel Praises Guatemala Over Yerushalayim Embassy Move

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales (L) and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at their meeting in Yerushalayim in this 2016 file photo. (Reuters/Abir Sultan/Pool)

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales drew praise from Israeli officials on Monday for deciding to relocate the Central American country’s embassy to Yerushalayim, a move in step with U.S. policy in a dispute over the city’s status.

In a short post on his official social media account Sunday, Morales said he had decided to move the embassy from Tel Aviv after talking to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

President Donald Trump recognized Yerushalayim as the capital of Israel on Dec. 6.

Last Thursday, 128 countries defied Trump by backing a non-binding U.N. General Assembly resolution calling on the United States to drop its recognition of Yerushalayim.

“I congratulate my friend [President Morales] on his bold decision to move his country’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem,” Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein wrote on social media. “Your decision proves that you and your country are true friends of Israel.”

Guatemala and neighboring Honduras were two of only a handful of countries to join Israel and the United States, which has pledged to move its embassy to Yerushalayim, in voting against the U.N. resolution.

Israel’s ambassador to Guatemala, Matty Cohen, said on Army Radio that no date had been set for the embassy move, “but it will happen after” the United States relocates its own embassy to Yerushalayim. U.S. officials have said that move could take at least two years.

The United States is an important source of assistance to Guatemala and Honduras, and Trump had threatened to cut off financial aid to countries that supported the U.N. resolution.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked thanked President Morales for what she described as “his courageous decision.” She said she was confident that other countries would follow his lead.

Prior to 1980, Guatemala — along with Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, The Netherlands, Panama, Venezuela and Uruguay — maintained an embassy in Yerushalayim.

Israel’s passage in June 1980 of a law proclaiming Yerushalayim its “indivisible and eternal capital” led to a U.N. Security Council resolution calling upon those countries to move their embassies to Tel Aviv, prompting their transfer.