Guatemala will be the first country to follow U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s lead by moving its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May, only two days after its northern neighbor. Trump’s symbolic move drew waves of international criticism when first announced in December 2017 (see WikiTribune‘s previous coverage).
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Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales made the announcement during a speech at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference in Washington on March 4. “I would like to thank President Trump for leading the way. His courageous decision has encouraged us to do what is right,” said Morales, according to a translation of his comments on the pro-Israel lobbying group’s website.
Trump reversed decades of U.S. policy, which avoided declaring Jerusalem the Israeli capital in the absence of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, by announcing the relocation of the country’s embassy in Israel on December 7. Israel’s sovereignty over the whole of Jerusalem is unrecognized by most of the international community. Trump argued it was “nothing more, or less, than a recognition of reality.”
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Only Guatemala – which is expected to receive just over $80 million in U.S. foreign aid in 2018 – and a few other nations supported the president in the face of overwhelming international and domestic condemnation. The status of Jerusalem is one of the most pressing obstacles in resolving the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, who claim the city’s eastern half as their capital.
Following Trump’s announcement, 128 countries – including key U.S. allies such as the United Kingdom and Germany – backed a non-binding UN General Assembly resolution that urged the U.S. to drop its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital (The Guardian).