US thanks Guatemala, urges others to move embassies to Jerusalem
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US thanks Guatemala, urges others to move embassies to Jerusalem

White House says it looks forward to welcoming allies to Israel’s capital, compares Trump to Truman recognizing Israel in 1948

Guatemala President Jimmy Morales speaks during the official opening ceremony of the Guatemala embassy in Jerusalem on May 16, 2018. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)
Guatemala President Jimmy Morales speaks during the official opening ceremony of the Guatemala embassy in Jerusalem on May 16, 2018. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

The White House thanked Guatemala Thursday for being the first country to follow its lead in moving its embassy to Jerusalem, and called for other countries to follow suit.

“We thank our Western Hemisphere partner for joining us in recognizing Israel’s capital and encourage additional moves,” the White House said in a statement.

Guatemala on Wednesday became the second country to move its embassy to Jerusalem, two days after the US inaugurated its own embassy in the city, answering a longstanding Israeli demand for recognition of the city as their capital.

On Monday, Paraguay is set to open its own embassy in the city. No other countries have immediate plans to move their embassies though a number have expressed interest in making the move, among them Honduras, the Czech Republic and Romania.

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. US President Donald Trump’s December decision to recognize Jerusalem and move the embassy was met with widespread international condemnation.

US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and US President Donald Trump’s daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump unveil the inauguration plaque during the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)

Israel claims the entire city as its eternal capital. Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as their future capital and were infuriated by the embassy moves.

While Israel has actively lobbied other countries to move their embassies as well following the US, the statement appeared to be the first time the US has openly pushed for the move.

“We look forward to welcoming many more of our friends and allies in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel,” the statement read. The statement also compared Trump’s decision to president Harry Truman recognizing Israel upon its founding in 1948.

People watch as US President Donald Trump speaks on a video screen during the official opening ceremony of the US embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Several analysts have pointed to the Latin American countries following Washington’s lead as a bid to curry Trump’s favor and US support.

“They pretty much need and want support and legitimacy from the US and one way of achieving that is by being on friendly, cordial or even extraordinary terms with Israel,” Hebrew University expert Arie Kacowicz told JTA recently.

In a video message shown at Monday’s US embassy inauguration, Trump said his recognition was of the “plain reality that Israel’s capital is Jerusalem,” noting that the city houses Israel’s main governmental facilities, Supreme Court, Prime Minister’s Office and president’s home.

He also stressed that the US remains committed to facilitating an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal and called for Israel to preserve the status quo at religious sites in Jerusalem.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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