Guatemala festively opened its new embassy in Jerusalem on Wednesday, becoming the second country to do so after the United States, and giving Israel a diplomatic boost as it faces international criticism for the deadly violence on the Gaza border.
Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales dedicated the embassy just two days after a high-powered American delegation also marked the transfer of its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was fitting since Guatemala also followed the U.S. to be the second country to recognize Israel 70 years ago.
“You were always among the first,” he said at the ceremony. “We remember our friends and Guatemala is our friend, then and now.”
President Donald Trump announced his decision in December to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the American embassy there, triggering a joyous reaction from Netanyahu’s government.
Israel has always claimed Jerusalem as its capital yet most countries opted to place their embassies in coastal Tel Aviv because of the holy city’s contested status. Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and later annexed it in a move not recognized internationally. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, and view the relocation of the embassy as a one-sided move that invalidates the U.S. as a Mideast peace broker.
The embassy move added fuel to the weekly Palestinian protests in Gaza demanding the right of return to Israel and the lifting of a decade-old naval blockade.