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Guatemala caves to US foreign policy, moves embassy to Jerusalem

When Washington says “jump!”, Guatemala asks “how high?”

Pretty much the entire planet, in a United Nations General Assembly resolution, slammed the US’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and its accompanying threat to cancel any US foreign aid to those countries who don’t agree with the the move.

Jimmy Morales, the Guatemalan president, announced plans to move the Guatemalan embassy to Jerusalem in solidarity with the move that the United States decided back in December.

At the United Nations, where 128 nations condemned the action, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley threatened any UN member nations that voted in accord with the UN resolution, which was followed up by a threat from the US President himself to cancel foreign aid to those nations, whose names were taken down by Haley. Euronews reports:

Guatemala is the first country to follow the US lead in relocating its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. It’s a controversial move, not just because it runs counter to a non-binding UN resolution, but because the international community has never recognized Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem.

Guatemala has announced that it will move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in May. President Jimmy Morales is following the lead of US President Donald Trump, who, back in December, announced plans to relocate his country’s embassy to the city.

“I would like to thank President Trump for leading the way. His courageous decision has encouraged us to do what is right.”

Jimmy MoralesPresident of Guatemala

Trump’s stance provoked international condemnation, with 128 countries signing up to a non-binding UN resolution calling for the US to drop its recognition of Jerusalem.

What is all the fuss about?

Israel claims Jerusalem as its capital, and runs its government from the city. However, Palestinians also stake a claim in East Jerusalem, which was annexed by its neighbour and rival after the 1967 war.

Wanting to defuse tensions in the region, the international community has tended to sidestep the issue, often basing their embassies in the financial centre of Tel Aviv instead.

Donald Trump’s decision is widely perceived as an endorsement of Israel’s claims, and is likely to be a significant obstacle to any peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Why Guatemala?

The cynics would say that Guatemala’s dependence on US aid lies behind its following of the US lead on Jerusalem. Donald Trump has threatened to cut off aid to countries that supported the UN resolution against it.

However, President Morales said that his decision “strongly evidences Guatemala’s continued support and solidarity with the people of Israel”.

In January a local Guatemalan lawyer, Marco Vinicio Mejia, challenged his President’s decision in the courts. However, the high court’s five magistrates turned down his petition, clearing the way for the move.

Israeli thanks

When the news broke, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Jimmy Morales for his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

It is believed that Honduras may soon follow the lead of its fellow South-American country.

The embassy move is supposed to take place two days following the US’s embassy move in mid May. Meanwhile, the Guatemalan ambassador, Sara Castenada, has been touring Jerusalem for an appropriate property to be acquired for that purpose.

The Latin American nation once held an embassy in Jerusalem, but withdrew it to Tel Aviv in accordance with a United Nations Security Council Resolution in 1980.

This action on the part of the Guatemalan government of course drew the thanks of the US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, at a meeting with Morales in Guatemala City, as well as the gratitude of the US President Donald Trump, who expressed this sentiment during a meeting in Washington back in early February.

The Palestinians, on the other hand, condemn the choice of the Guatemalan government in making such a move. Palestinian legislator, scholar, and PLO Executive Committee member Hana Ashrawi vocally condemned the move as the Palestine News Network reports:

PLO Executive Committee Member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi has condemned the “dangerous and provocative” announcement made by Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales at AIPAC’s annual conference to relocate the embassy of Guatemala from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“By taking such a step that defies international law, Mr. Morales, also besieged at home by charges of corruption and abuse of power, has partnered with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S President Donald Trump in violating international law and undermining the chances of peace,” Ashrawi said in an official statement.

Ashrawi urged the international community, Arab and Islamic states “to intervene and hold the Israeli occupation and its partners to account for such flagrant violations and provocative actions that fuel the flames in an already volatile situation.”

This action, more than almost anything, demonstrates just how dependent the Latin American nation has become on US foreign aid. When Washington announced its intention to move its embassy to Jerusalem, Guatemala wasted no time in praising the action and announcing that it would follow suit.

President Trump’s threat of cancelling financial aid to dissenters seems to not even have been necessary to prompt such pandering from Guatemala, but which would have acted more as an assurance that Washington’s pets would not cross their boundaries. With such economic dependence, it is no wonder that when Washington says “jump”, Guatemala asks “how high?”

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