The United States and Guatemala are already on board, and Israel is now actively pursuing other countries to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and move their embassies to the city.
By Steve Leibowitz, World Israel News
Shortly after Guatemala stepped up to become the first country to follow the United States and recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely announced that at least 10 other countries are already in talks and could make the move as well.
Which are those countries? Israeli officials are being discreet about naming those in question so as not to prejudice the outcome. In conversation with World Israel News (WIN), Foreign Ministry spokesman Emanuel Nachshon confirmed that the campaign to convince other nations to move their embassies to Jerusalem is underway and picking up support. Nachshon told WIN, “It’s our policy not to speak about specific countries at this time because we want them to make their choice without undue pressure. But I can confirm that we are in touch with a number of countries on the issue.”
Media speculation has it that Honduras, Togo, Paraguay, Romania and Slovakia are some of the most likely nations to follow Guatemala.
Channel 10 reported that the next country likely to announce an embassy move is Honduras. It was one of nine countries that voted against the UN General Assembly’s resolution condemning the US move, and like neighboring Guatemala, it too has had close ties to the Jewish State in recent years. Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez has spent time in Israel and is a graduate of the Israel Foreign Ministries ‘Mashav’ program for International Development and Cooperation.
The Walla news site reported that officials from Romania and Slovakia had expressed support for such a move and were working in their respective countries to try and make the change. Romania abstained in the UN vote as it pursues a foreign policy independent of the European Union, so it could be a real possibility. On the other hand, Walla’s speculation about Slovakia could be misplaced, since it voted in favor of the UN resolution condemning the US move.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein announced at a Likud party event Monday that the parliamentary heads of two countries had spoken to him about moving their embassies from Tel Aviv. Speculation is that one of those is the South American nation of Paraguay and that the other is Togo in western Africa.
Togo is likely a non-starter. A former Israeli ambassador in the African continent told WIN, “Togo did vote with the US and Israel in the United Nations, but they do not currently have an embassy in Israel at all, so I doubt they are about to announce they will open one in Jerusalem.” The veteran diplomat said that if any African countries makes the move, it would likely be Rwanda or maybe Cameroon.
What about Europe?
An expert on Europe who prefers to remain anonymous said that the Czech Republic and Romania are the most likely European countries to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. He told WIN, “Several eastern European countries have strong relations with Israel and weak ties to the Arab world. But honestly, I cannot see any European nation making a unilateral move. They are all too involved with trying to appease the EU.”
The source added, “A few nations could make declarative pro-Jerusalem statements to score points with Trump or Israel. But it’s all declarative. Remember, no country in Europe voted with the United States and Israel. They only abstained. I doubt they will go as far as opening an embassy in Jerusalem until the US embassy is open.”
Edelstein announced at a Likud party forum that two parliament speakers had spoken to him about moving their embassies to Jerusalem. Walla speculates that Romania and Slovakia have expressed support for the move.
Even before the US announcement, the Czech Republic said that it recognized west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and Russia made a similar statement last April. However, neither country is expected to move its embassy any time soon.
Israelis support Trump’s position on Jerusalem
Trump’s announcement is gaining some traction in part because there has been overwhelming support for the move in Israel. The Knesset opposition parties, with the exception of the extreme-left Meretz and the Joint Arab List, have all endorsed the American position.
Zionist Union Knesset Member Nachman Shai told WIN, “When it comes to Jerusalem being the capital of Israel, there is no difference among the major Zionist political parties. Ninety percent of the Jewish people in Israel say that they want the world to recognize Jerusalem as the capital.”
Shai said he was gratified by Trump’s announcement. “I am a Jerusalemite. I was born here over 70 years ago and I was happy to hear Trump’s announcement. The same applies to the Guatemala decision and I hope that a lot of other countries will follow suit. This is our decision to locate our capital where we want, and the US can have its embassy wherever they want. For me, Jerusalem is the heart of Israel and of the Jewish people, and all embassies should be here in Jerusalem.”
Shai also thinks that current Jerusalem municipal borders are too large. “I have nothing against Arabs living in the city, but I would like to see a smaller city with a more stable Jewish majority in the capital. We must change the boundaries that were drawn after the war in 1967 because we now have 40 percent Arabs and 60 percent Jews living in the city, and that’s a threat to the Jewish character of the city. Some Arab villages inside the municipal borders, like the Shuafat refugee camp, should be removed from the city,” Shai said.
After Guatemala made its announcement, Netanyahu hailed the decision and declared confidently that other nations will soon follow. “I told you recently there would be other countries that will recognize Jerusalem and move their embassies. I repeat, there will be more, this is just the beginning,” he said. Netanyahu could be right, but there is still quite a long way to go.