WASHINGTON – Guatemala will move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem two days after the US does so in May, according to the nation’s president, Jimmy Morales.
Speaking on Sunday to a receptive audience at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual conference in Washington, Morales said his government would follow the lead of US President Donald Trump because it was the right thing to do. Both leaders announced intentions to move their nations’ embassies to Jerusalem in December, but Morales – like Trump – has only recently specified his timetable.
Morales told The Jerusalem Post
after his speech that Guatemala has received “the pushback that was expected” from the decision. But he emphasized his belief that more countries would follow his lead.
“We’ve had unofficial conversations,” he said, speaking through a translator, referring generally to nations in Latin America and Europe which he declined to identify.
Morales also said the decision was driven by the diplomatic principle of reciprocity, which indicates that a nation gives only as much as it takes.
“There’s a rule – the reciprocity rule. We believe that, with Israel, we have been good friends ever since the establishment of the Jewish state,” he told the Post. He did not further explain what reciprocal move he was referring to.
In his speech, Morales said that Trump’s move “opened space” for other nations to do what they have known to be right for some time, but one reason or another, lacked the courage or conviction to do.
“I would like to thank President Trump for leading the way. His courageous decision has encouraged us to do what is right,” he said. “It is important to be the first. It is more important to do what is right.”
Morales noted that Guatemala was one of the first countries to recognize Israel, to vote for partition, and in 1959, to even place its embassy in Jerusalem – a facility that was later moved.
During the remarks, which earned him a standing ovation, Morales several times stressed Guatemala’s affinity for the US and its desire for investment from its Jewish community. Asked by the Post why he came to AIPAC to speak, Morales replied, “We received the invitation, so we took the opportunity to actually get closer to a very important American Jewish community.”