Hotovely’s comments, in an interview on Reshet Bet, came following Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales decision to move his country’s embassy. He announced the move in a Facebook post on Sunday evening.
“Today I spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” Morales wrote. “We spoke about the great relationships we have had as nations since Guatemala supported the creation of the State of Israel. One of the most relevant topics was the return of the Embassy of Guatemala to Jerusalem. I inform you that I have given instructions to the Chancellor [Foreign Minister] to initiate the process to make it possible. God bless you.”
The decision comes three weeks after the United States decided to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move its embassy, and four days after Guatemala was one of only nine countries in the UN to vote against a resolution slamming the US move. That resolution passed 128 to nine, with 35 abstentions.
Only three of the eight Central American countries voted against Israel at Thursday’s UN vote. Honduras, Guatemala’s neighbor to the east, with which Israel has strong ties, also voted against the measure and is widely believed to be a leading candidate to be the next country to announce it is moving its embassy as well.
Netanyahu spoke of Guatemala’s move at the Likud faction meeting in the Knesset, saying he spoke Sunday night with Morales, who is an Evangelical Christian, thanked him for Guatemala’s support at the UN, and expressed hope he would follow in Trump’s footsteps.
Benjamin Netanyahu to CNN: About time US recognized Jerusalem as capital and whether other countries will do the same, December 22, 20
“From here I would like to say to the president of Guatemala, God bless you, my friend, President Morales,” Netanyahu said. “God bless both our countries – Israel and Guatemala. We are waiting for you here in Jerusalem.”
Netanyahu said that Guatemala’s move was “only the beginning, and it is important,” and that “there will be other countries that will recognize Jerusalem and announce the transfer of their embassies to it.”
Neither Netanyahu nor Hotovely would list the names of other countries which are considering the move, though Hotovely said that a number of them have a strong Christian base. Between 35% to 40% of Guatemala’s 16.6 million citizens are evangelical.
Since Trump’s declaration on December 6, senior officials in the Czech Republic, the Philippines and Romania have mentioned the possibility of such a move or of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Each of these countries abstained in the UN vote last Thursday.
Morales, a former television personality, was elected in October 2015, and diplomatic officials here at the time predicted his presidency would lead to a strengthening of ties between the countries.
Israel has long had good relations with Guatemala, though Morales has brought those ties to a new level. Guatemala was the first Latin American country to vote in favor of partition at the UN on November 29, 1947.
Before his election, Morales had no government experience.
Mattanya Cohen, Ambassador to Guatemala, told Army Radio that the move had to do with the large evangelical population in the country, and the developmental aid it gets from Israel.
President Reuven Rivlin posted a tweet expressing Israel’s appreciation. “Guatemala has shown they know very well that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” he wrote. “I welcome their decision to bring their embassy to Jerusalem and thank them for their deep friendship.”