Honduras to open Jerusalem trade office; Sara Netanyahu takes credit
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Honduras to open Jerusalem trade office; Sara Netanyahu takes credit

Prime minister’s wife says she urged Guatemalan president to encourage his Honduran counterpart to move embassy to capital

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu his wife Sara, Guatemala President Jimmy Morales (2R) his wife Patricia (R) and Guatemalan Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel (L) pose for a picture at the official opening ceremony of the Guatemala embassy in Jerusalem on May 16, 2018. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu his wife Sara, Guatemala President Jimmy Morales (2R) his wife Patricia (R) and Guatemalan Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel (L) pose for a picture at the official opening ceremony of the Guatemala embassy in Jerusalem on May 16, 2018. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife on Tuesday announced that Honduras will open a diplomatic facility in Jerusalem next week and suggested she was responsible for making it happen.

“I’m happy to announce that on Sunday Honduras is opening a diplomatic mission in Jerusalem, a step on the way to an embassy,” Sara Netanyahu said in a Facebook live video with Culture Minister Miri Regev.

The Foreign Ministry confirmed in a statement that Honduras will establish a trade office with diplomatic status and that Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández, accompanied by his wife, will arrive in Israel on Saturday night to participate in the opening ceremony.

The trade office is a first move toward “the future relocation of the Honduras embassy to Jerusalem,” the ministry said.

Sara Netanyahu claimed the development came after her government-funded trip last year to Guatemala, which neighbors Honduras.

“When I visited Guatemala I spoke with [First Lady] Patricia Morales and her husband the president, I asked them to operate vis-a-vis Honduras so it’ll move its embassy to Jerusalem,” she said.

Sara Netanyahu said that during the visit, which included official ceremonies, she attended a lunch party with Jimmy Morales and his wife.

“I asked the president to help us move the Honduras embassy to Jerusalem. Right there and then, he called his friend the President of Honduras Juan Orlando Hernández and said to him that he is sitting with me at lunch and I proposed that he move the embassy to Jerusalem. And thus began the dialogue between the countries that will reach its peak this coming Sunday with the opening of a diplomatic mission in Jerusalem.”

Guatemala already moved its embassy to Jerusalem in May 2018, shortly after the US relocated its mission from Tel Aviv to the capital.

Honduras’ President Juan Orlando Hernandez speaks at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington on March 24, 2019. (Screen capture/AIPAC)

Unlike countries such as the US and Guatemala, Israel has no first lady, and the prime minister’s spouse formally holds no special status.

Sara Netanyahu made her diplomatic trip to Guatemala in early December 2018. Israeli officials hailed the visit — the first time a prime minister’s spouse has gone on an official trip alone — as “historic,” saying it further cemented the robust bilateral ties between Israel and the Central American state. No reporters were invited to join the trip.

Later in December Hadashot TV news reported that a delegation of senior officials from Honduras visited Israel, reportedly to explore the possibility of moving the Honduran embassy to Jerusalem, after secret talks with the prime minister.

According to that report, Honduras is demanding that Israel open an embassy in its capital, Tegucigalpa, and deepen bilateral trade in exchange for relocating its own mission. A Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed the delegation visit but said only that there was an “ongoing process of discussions that has yet to mature.”

The Hondurans are particularly interested in getting advice from Israeli experts on cyber issues, crime fighting, water, and agriculture, the TV report said at the time. Foreign Ministry sources were quoted as saying that Honduras also indicated that it is keen to see improved ties with the administration in Washington.

View of the US Consulate in Jerusalem’s Arnona neighborhood, Israel, shortly before it became the American embassy in Israel, February 24, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In December 2017, US President Donald Trump decided to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and  recognized the city as Israel’s capital.

The embassy was transferred in May 2018 in a move that sparked outrage in much of the Arab world. Two days later, Guatemala moved its embassy to the capital. Paraguay also moved its embassy to Jerusalem but a new administration in that country announced in September that it was moving the mission back to Tel Aviv, souring relations with Israel.

Most countries maintain embassies in Tel Aviv and have balked at moving them until the international legal status of the city has been resolved in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem and move the embassy was met with widespread international condemnation.

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