Guatemala inaugurates embassy in Jerusalem
Following in the footsteps of the US, Guatemala's President Jimmy Morales arrives in Israel to open the country's embassy in the capital; Netanyahu: 'Israel and Guatemala share so many goals and so many values. Even though we are seemingly far away, we're not really far away.'
"It's not a coincidence that Guatemala is opening its embassy in Jerusalem among the first, you were always among the first," Netanyhu said at the outset of his remarks at the ceremony.
"You were the second country to recognize Israel, but you had a very important role in this," he went on to say, explaining that "Your ambassador to the United Nations, Jorge Granados, was very active in lobbying the countries at the UN at the time to support the Partition Resolution, which was effectively the recognition of the Jewish state by the United Nations."
"In his honor, and in honor of Guatemala's efforts in those days, there's a Guatemala Street right here, about a kilometer from here, in Jerusalem. There's a Guatemala Street in many cities and many communities in Israel, because we remember our friends, and Guatemala is our friend—then and now," he added.
Netanyahu noted that Israel and Guatemala "share so many goals and so many values. Even though we are seemingly far away, we're not really far away."
"In this spirit of friendship and a common bond, we welcome you to Jerusalem for the opening of this embassy," the prime minister said. "I look forward to discussing with you the practical ways that we can advance this friendship and this alliance."
Netanyahu also promised to visit Guatemala in his next trip to Latin America.
Also attending the ceremony were Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze'ev Elkin, Economy Minister Eli Cohen, and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, as well as US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.
"Today we mark a historic day in the friendly relations between Guatemala and Israel," Morales said on Twitter ahead of the event.
"Guatemalan Embassy, welcome home!" said Jerusalem Mayor Barkat, thanking "President Jimmy Morales Cabrera of Guatemala for his courageous decision," and calling upon other countries to "join the United States and Guatemala—do the right thing and bring your embassies to the Jerusalem, our eternal capital!"
"Dear citizens of Guatemala, I have spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today. We spoke about the excellent relations our countries have enjoyed since we supported Israel's creation. One of the important topics broached were transferring the Guatemalan Embassy to Jerusalem, and I hereby announce I have instructed the embassy's staff to plan such a move. May God bless you," Morales wrote on his Facebook page.
“I would like to thank President Trump for leading the way. His courageous decision has encouraged us to do what is right,” Morales said, according to a translation of his remarks on the pro-Israel US lobbying group’s website.
Guatemala was one of only a handful of countries that backed US President Donald Trump’s December decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and it was the first country besides the United States to set a date for moving its embassy there. Trump’s move reversed decades of US policy, upsetting the Arab world and Western allies.
Afterward, 128 countries defied Trump by backing a non-binding UN General Assembly resolution calling for the United States to drop its recognition of Jerusalem—a resolution Washington then vetoed.
Reuters contributed to this report.