All smiles in J’lem

Gu­atemalan em­bassy moves back to cap­i­tal

The Jerusalem Post - - FRONT PAGE - • By HERB KEINON

Just as Gu­atemala fol­lowed the United States in May 1948 and was the sec­ond coun­try to rec­og­nize Is­rael, it be­came the sec­ond state af­ter the US on Wed­nes­day to open its em­bassy in Jerusalem.

“This is the be­gin­ning of some­thing ex­tra­or­di­nary, or I would say, the re-be­gin­ning of some­thing ex­tra­or­di­nary, which is the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Gu­atemala and Is­rael,” Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu said at the ded­i­ca­tion of the new em­bassy on the third floor of a 16-floor of­fice build­ing in the Malha Tech­no­log­i­cal Park in Jerusalem.

Ne­tanyahu said that this move goes “hand in hand” with the open­ing two days ago of the US Em­bassy in the cap­i­tal. “It is not a co­in­ci­dence that Gu­atemala is open­ing its em­bassy in Jerusalem right among the first. You are al­ways among the first,” he said.

Gu­atemalan Pres­i­dent Jimmy Mo­rales, who ar­rived on Tues­day to take part in the cer­e­mony, un­der­lined in his com­ments not only the strength of ties be­tween his coun­try and Is­rael, but also a tri­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship with the US. One of the var­i­ous rea­sons that have been given for Gu­atemala’s de­ci­sion to open the em­bassy has to do with its de­sire to strengthen its ties with the US and take a step that will be looked upon fa­vor­ably by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

Mo­rales noted that Gu­atemala, Is­rael and the US are “three friends that share friend­ship, courage and loy­alty.”

Mo­rales said that the de­ci­sion to move the em­bassy will bring “great ben­e­fits” for Gu­atemalans, and that the new em­bassy will “fur­ther strengthen the link be­tween our coun­tries.”

“Gu­atemala wishes to strengthen strate­gic and co­op­er­a­tive al­liances,” he said. “There­fore, see our coun­try as a gate­way to the world. And you will wonder why I say a gate­way to the world? Sim­ply be­cause Gu­atemala has had the courage to make coura­geous de­ci­sions, and many na­tions are see­ing our actions and are de­cid­ing on their own based on our actions and de­ci­sions.”

Another Latin Amer­i­can coun­try, Paraguay, is sched­uled to open its em­bassy in Jerusalem next week, and Gu­atemala’s neigh­bor, Hon­duras, is ex­pected to an­nounce in a num­ber of weeks that it will be do­ing the same.

Ne­tanyahu spent much of the day with Mo­rales, with whom he said he wanted to dis­cuss the “prac­ti­cal ways” to ad­vance the re­la­tion­ship, hold­ing meet­ings with him and his del­e­ga­tion af­ter the ded­i­ca­tion cer­e­mony, at­tend­ing a re­cep­tion with him in the af­ter­noon, and invit­ing him and his wife, Pa­tri­cia Mar­ro­quín, for a din­ner at his res­i­dence in the evening.

Both Mo­rales and Ne­tanyahu noted that the warm re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two states pre­dates the es­tab­lish­ment of Is­rael, when Gu­atemala’s am­bas­sador to the UN at the time, Jorge Gar­cía Grana­dos, played an in­stru­men­tal role in lob­by­ing coun­tries to ac­cept the 1947 Par­ti­tion Plan, which led to the es­tab­lish­ment of Is­rael some six months later.

Gu­atemala, as Ne­tanyahu pointed out, was the first Latin Amer­ica coun­try to rec­og­nize Is­rael, some­thing then fol­lowed by oth­ers in the re­gion. Ne­tanyahu noted in his re­marks that in honor of those ef­forts, there is a Gu­atemala Street not far from the new em­bassy.

“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 said.

Be­cause he also wants streets in Gu­atemala to be named af­ter Is­rael, Ne­tanyahu an­nounced that “my next trip to Latin Amer­ica goes through Gu­atemala.”

The prime min­is­ter did not give a def­i­nite date for that trip, though there has been talk of him again vis­it­ing Latin Amer­ica – he did so last Septem­ber – by the end of the year.

Some 150 peo­ple crammed into the foyer of the em­bassy, in­clud­ing US Am­bas­sador David Fried­man, US phi­lan­thropist Shel­don Adel­son, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and nu­mer­ous Gu­atemalan min­is­ters and mem­bers of the leg­is­la­ture who flew in for the event.

The cer­e­mony be­gan with a woman lead­ing the guests in a four minute and 20-sec­ond ren­di­tion of all eight stan­zas of the Gu­atemalan national an­them. This was fol­lowed by a 56-sec­ond ren­di­tion of “Hatikva.”

Gu­atemalan Am­bas­sador Sara So­lis Cas­tañeda wel­comed the guests to the new em­bassy, call­ing it a “his­toric day.” She noted that Gu­atemala was the first coun­try ever to open an em­bassy in Jerusalem, do­ing so in 1956. That em­bassy – along with sev­eral oth­ers – moved out of the cap­i­tal in 1980 when the Knes­set passed the Jerusalem Law that de­clared “united” Jerusalem as the cap­i­tal of Is­rael.

The am­bas­sador also noted that the em­bassy in Jerusalem was Gu­atemala’s first ever in Asia, and – with the ap­point­ment of a woman am­bas­sador in 1960 – was the first Gu­atemalan em­bassy with a fe­male am­bas­sador.

For­eign Min­is­ter San­dra Jovel, in the coun­try since Fri­day, re­ferred to Jerusalem as the “eter­nal cap­i­tal of Is­rael,” and stressed the val­ues that Is­rael, Gu­atemala and the US share, men­tion­ing democ­racy and the fights against ter­ror­ism and cor­rup­tion.

(Marc Is­rael Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

PRIME MIN­IS­TER Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu and his wife, Sara, and Gu­atemalan Pres­i­dent Jimmy Mo­rales (cen­ter) and his wife, Pa­tri­cia Mar­ro­quín, in­au­gu­rate the new em­bassy in the cap­i­tal yes­ter­day.

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