Netanyahu Praises Guatemalan Plan to Move Embassy to Jerusalem

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales and Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. (Photo: MEMO)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Guatemala with a “God bless you” on Christmas Day for deciding to move its embassy to Jerusalem. Palestinians said the Central American country was “on the wrong side of history”.

In an official Facebook post on Sunday, Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales said he had chosen to relocate the embassy from Tel Aviv – siding with the United States in a dispute over Jerusalem’s status – after talking to Netanyahu.

US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on December 6. The decision reversed decades of US policy upsetting the Arab world and Western allies.

On Thursday, 128 countries rebuked Trump by backing a non-binding UN General Assembly resolution. They called on the United States to drop its recognition of Jerusalem.

Netanyahu said, switching to English, in remarks to a weekly meeting of his Likud party faction in parliament:

God bless you, my friend, President Jimmy Morales, God bless both our countries, Israel and Guatemala.”

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 Jerusalem, in voting against the UN resolution.

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

The status of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest obstacles to an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a state they want to establish in the occupied West Bank and in the Gaza Strip. The international community does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the entire city, home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian religions.

The official Palestinian news agency WAFA quoted Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki as saying that Morales was “dragging his country to the wrong side of history by committing a flagrant violation of international law”.

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 Jerusalem. US officials have said that move could take at least two years.

While the international community has almost unanimously disagreed with Donald Trump’s announcement, reports suggest that the announcement was done with the pre-agreement of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, with the Saudi Arabia going as far as, allegedly, stating to the Palestinian President to accept a village on the outskirts of Jerusalem as the alternative Palestinian capital.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

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