Honduras officially moved its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem on Thursday in the presence of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and visiting Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández.
“Mr. President, you are a true friend of Israel,” Bennett told Hernández shortly before the inauguration ceremony at the Technological Park in the Malha neighborhood of Jerusalem. “The Jewish people have a long memory, and you will be recorded in the pages of history as having done a brave and justified deed for the State of Israel.”
Thursday’s ceremony made Honduras the fourth country to open an embassy in Jerusalem, following the United States, Guatemala and Kosovo.
“We hope to continue building the solid relationship between our two countries,” Hernández tweeted after the event, referring to Jerusalem as “the eternal capital of Israel.”
Hernández noted that he first visited Israel 30 years ago to take part in a leadership development program run by Mashav, or the Agency for International Development Cooperation, which he called “a life-changing experience.”
He also pointed out that after he took office in 2014, Honduras became “one of the two countries in Latin America, and one of the five in the world, that most often abstains from the resolutions that Israel opposes.”
Bennett thanked him for his international backing of Israel.
“Under your leadership, Honduras consistently stands by Israel in international institutions when it is not always popular, and sometimes it also involves paying a price,” the prime minister told Hernández. “This is a testimony to our friendship — your willingness to take action… I want to thank you and the public in Honduras for this support.”
Earlier Thursday, Israel signed a series of cooperation agreements with Honduras on agriculture, health, education and innovation during a meeting between Bennett and Hernández.
“Cooperation between our two countries is very diverse — from trade to agriculture, water, political and security issues,” said Bennett. “Our goal is to deepen the cooperation and to that end, we have agreed on expanding it to the hi-tech and cyber fields as well as other areas.”
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who was prime minister when the agreement with Honduras was reached last year, welcomed the embassy move and emphasized his role in the event. Netanyahu and Hernández are slated to meet during his trip to Jerusalem.
“I agreed to the opening of embassies with Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández a year ago and today we are seeing the fruits,” Netanyahu wrote on Facebook. “I hope that the efforts I began, to transfer embassies to Jerusalem, will not end and other countries will move their embassies to Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years.”
Netanyahu was not at Thursday’s ceremony, but did meet with Hernández later in the day, the opposition leader’s office said.
Hernández visited both the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Thursday. He also met with President Reuven Rivlin.
“I have no doubt that under your leadership, our relations and the cooperation between us will deepen,” Rivlin said. “On behalf of all Israelis, I thank you for your deep friendship and for the people of Honduras standing with Israel.”
In September, Hernández and then-prime minister Netanyahu agreed to open reciprocal embassies in each other’s capitals by the end of 2020. But at the time of the initial announcement, Hernández noted that he hoped “to take this historic step before the end of the year, as long as the pandemic allows it.”
Earlier this month, he announced that the long-awaited move would take place in June.
Israel is set to open a diplomatic office in Tegucigalpa, Honduras’s capital city, after having opened a temporary representative office in the Honduran capital last August.
The meeting between Bennett and Hernández was the new Israeli prime minister’s first face-to-face meeting with a foreign leader since he took office last week.