Guatemala FM Defends Israel Embassy Move, Says No Reversal

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Guatamalan President Jimmy Morales at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, on November 29, 2016. Photo by Haim Zach/GPO

President Jimmy Morales’ top diplomat defended his decision to move Guatemala’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, rejecting on Tuesday international and domestic criticism after he followed Washington’s lead in announcing a switch.

Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel said the change amounts to “a foreign policy decision, therefore sovereign,” and there is no intention to reverse it.

“What we are doing is being coherent with our foreign policy and the ally we have been for Israel,” she said.

Morales announced the change on Sunday night, becoming the first to follow U.S. President Donald Trump on switching from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Guatemala’s government has given no timeline for a move, and Trump has also not said when a U.S. switch might be made.

Jovel played down a possible fallout for Guatemala’s cardamom trade, for which Arab and Islamic nations are the largest buyers. She noted it represents just 0.37 percent of the country’s GDP.

“It is not an issue that should really worry us too much,” Jovel said.

Guatemala and Israel have long had close ties, especially in security matters and Israeli arms sales to the Central American nation.

Trump’s announcement Dec. 6 upended decades of U.S. policy and set off weeks of clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces that have left at least a dozen Palestinians dead.

The U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly Thursday to condemn the U.S. decision in a non-binding resolution. Guatemala was one of nine nations that sided with the United States.