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(photo credit: AP [file])
The decision by El Salvador to move its embassy from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv will leave the capital bereft of any foreign embassy for the first time in a quarter century.
The move, which came on the heels of a similar decision by fellow Central American nation Costa Rica, marks the first major diplomatic gain for the Palestinians as a result of the month-long war with Hizbullah in Lebanon, and comes after weeks when the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority was ostracized due to its ongoing refusal to recognize Israel, renounce violence and recognize past peace agreements.
What years of on-again, off-again violence with the Palestinians failed to do, including the most recent six years of bloody conflict, the 34-day war with Hizbullah accomplished.
El Salvador and Costa Rica, which originally established their embassies in Jerusalem in the 1980s, were ostracized by the Arab world as a result, and the diplomatic and economic impact evidently outweighed the support they had garnered among among supporters of Israel.
Israel had criticized Costa Rica's decision last week, saying it could be interpreted as a "surrender to terror," and then called El Salvador's subsequent decision "regrettable."
Their decision to leave Jerusalem also highlights Israel's unequivocal diplomatic failure over the last quarter century to get any other country to move its embassy to Jerusalem, most notably the US.
Israel had repeatedly urged Washington to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and several US administrations have promised to make the move, but have never done so.
In the 1990s, the US government signed a memorandum of agreement with the Foreign Ministry whereby state-owned land near the Haas Promenade in Jerusalem's Talpiot neighborhood was expropriated as a suitable site for a diplomatic facility. The outbreak of violence in September 2000 halted all such plans.
In a recent Jerusalem address, former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk said that no US president would move the US Embassy to Jerusalem except as part of a final peace agreement with the Palestinians, and, repeat preelection pledges notwithstanding, it was unrealistic to expect such a move.
He said the US Embassy could be moved to Jerusalem if the Palestinians declare a provisional capital in the east Jerusalem areas that Israel cedes.
With peace talks in deep freeze, it now appears that Jerusalem will be barren of foreign embassies indefinitely.