Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and a delegation of Knesset members joined Guatemalan President Jimmy Morale and Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel Wednesday as the Central American nation returned its embassy to Jerusalem after a 37-year absence.
Ahead of the ceremony Israeli and Guatemalan officials called the occasion an “historic event,” ahead of Netanyahu’s praise for Guatemala City’s consistent support for Israel on the international stage. Netanyahu noted that Guatemala was the second country to recognize Israel in 1948, and a year earlier Guatemalan Ambassador to the United Nations Jorge Granados played a pivotal role in lobbying member states to support the partition plan that Netanyahu said was essentially the UN’s stamp of approval for Israeli independence before pledging to visit Guatemala on his next visit to Central America.
“We remember our friends,” Netanyahu said. “And Guatemala is our friend – then, and now.”
The premier added that both countries share the ideal of freedom “that is the core of the idea of freedom, and core of the idea of law…
the idea of human freedom started here, where the great prophets said that all men – and women – are equal in the image of God, in the eyes of God.
“Judaism started in Jerusalem, Christianity started in Jerusalem. This is a something that is a shared principle that allows us to go forward to many, many areas – technology, prosperity.
“It’s in this spirit of friendship and a common bond that we welcome you to Israel,” Netanyahu said.
Guatemala was the first country to position its embassy in Israel in Jerusalem, in 1959, but moved it to Tel Aviv in 1980 to protest Israel’s formal annexation of eastern Jerusalem.
Morales said Guatemala was sending a message of “love, peace and fraternity” to Israel amid praise from Netanyahu.
Morales called it a “transcendental moment for future generations” who will “remember that friendly countries took courageous decisions in favor of Israel and we do this because you have a special place in our hearts.”
The Guatemalan government has positioned itself alongside Israel and its war crimes, defying international law and supporting the military occupation and the illegal annexation of Jerusalem.
The US embassy move on Monday was accompanied by mass protests and clashes along the Gaza border that saw Israeli forces kill some 60 Palestinians, and the Guatemalan decision to follow suit earned a rebuke from the Palestinian leadership.
“The Guatemalan government has positioned itself alongside Israel and its war crimes, defying international law and supporting the military occupation and the illegal annexation of Jerusalem,” senior official Hanan Ashrawi said.
“Clearly, the Guatemalan government has been emboldened by the US administration’s irresponsible and provocative policies.”
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.
Watch Netanyahu’s Speech Below
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