Israel welcomed the second international embassy to Jerusalem this week as Guatemala’s President Jimmy Morales inaugurated his country’s official diplomatic mission on Wednesday.
Guatemala follows the United States, which opened its own embassy in the capital on Monday, Israel’s 70th anniversary of statehood. It is the second time the Latin American nation followed the United States in a historic move. Guatemala was the second nation, after the U.S., to recognized the State of Israel in May 1948.
“It’s not a coincidence that Guatemala is opening its embassy in Jerusalem right among the first. You are always among the first,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
The embassy’s location and the ceremony are a humble affair compared to that of the American embassy dedication earlier this week. Guatemala’s small embassy is located in Jerusalem’s Malha Technological Park, near the city’s largest mall.
But the transfer of the Guatemalan embassy is no less significant. Morales said the opening of the embassy in Jerusalem “strongly evidences Guatemala’s continued support and solidarity with the people of Israel.”
Morales, an evangelical Christian, is believed to have boosted support for Israel in his country, which already had good ties with the Jewish state. He described Israel-Guatemala ties as a “love between brothers.”
“Seventy years ago the U.S. and Guatemala voted in favor of partition,” Morales said. “Three friends that share friendship and loyalty.”
The Old City walls were lit with the Israeli, Guatemalan and American flags the night before the ceremony.
“Today is a historic day,” said Guatemalan Ambassador Sara Solís Castaneda at the opening ceremony.
She noted that Guatemala was the first Latin American country to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the first in the world to open an embassy in Jerusalem in 1956 and now again the first Latin American nation to relocate its embassy to the capital.
The embassy was closed in 1980, along with several others, after Israel passed a law declaring that a “complete and united” Jerusalem was its capital. The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution calling on member states to withdraw their diplomatic missions from the city. No embassies have been located here since.
After U.S. President Donald Trump on Dec. 6 vowed to move American embassy to Jerusalem, Morales came to his support and promised to follow suit. Guatemala was followed by Paraguay, which has confirmed it will an embassy in Jerusalem next week.
“I would like to thank President Trump for leading the way. His courageous decision has encouraged us to do what is right,” Morales said in March at an AIPAC conference.
At Wednesday’s ceremony, Jerusalem Mayor Barkat welcomed the Guatemalan Embassy “home” and called on other countries to “join the United States and Guatemala—do the right thing and bring your embassies to the Jerusalem, our eternal capital!”