• Tuesday, Jul 16, 2019
  • Last Update : 12:10 pm

Guatemala opens Israel embassy in Jerusalem after US move

  • Published at 06:15 pm May 16th, 2018
2018-05-16_ISRAEL-GUATEMALA-EMBASSY
Hilda Patricia Marroquin, the wife of Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, cuts the ribbon during the dedication ceremony of the embassy of Guatemala in Jerusalem, as she stands with Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara, and Guatemalan Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel Polanco, May 16, 2018 Reuters

Guatemala inaugurated its Israel embassy in Jerusalem on Wednesday, becoming the first country to follow in the footsteps of the United States' deeply controversial move that was accompanied by deadly violence on the Gaza border.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales were among officials who attended a ceremony inaugurating the new embassy at an office park in the disputed city, which is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

The US and Guatemalan moves break with decades of international consensus. US ambassador to Israel David Friedman also attended Wednesday's ceremony.

So far the only other nation with immediate plans to open an Israel embassy in Jerusalem is Paraguay, expected to do so before the end of the month.

Netanyahu profusely praised Guatemala for making the move and noted it came only two days after the United States opened its embassy in Jerusalem.

The Israeli premier spoke of Guatemala's early recognition of the state of Israel after its creation in 1948 and said he would visit the country of 16 million on his next visit to Latin America.

"I look forward to assessing with you the practical ways... that we can advance this friendship and this alliance," Netanyahu said.

"But today, I just want to say how delighted we are to have you."

Morales called it a "transcendental moment for future generations" who will "remember that friendly countries took courageous decisions in favour of Israel and we do this because you have a special place in our hearts."

Morales's decision to move Guatemala's embassy has been seen as partly influenced by his evangelical religious beliefs.

Evangelicals want to see Jews rebuild their temple in Jerusalem, which according to their beliefs would facilitate the second coming of Christ.

The move is also seen by some as a gesture to elicit US support at a time when Morales stands accused by Guatemalan prosecutors of accepting illegal campaign contributions.

Former Guatemalan foreign minister Gabriel Orellana has said Morales's embassy move has the effect of banishing his country "to the fringes of the United Nations".

Jerusalem's status is perhaps the thorniest issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel considers the entire city its capital, while the Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Israel occupied the West Bank and east Jerusalem in 1967 and later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognised by the international community.