There’s an old saying that there’s no better friend than an old friend. In the case of Guatemala’s relationship with Israel, it is certainly true.
Guatemala lost little time following US President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and its move of the US embassy there. Guatemala promptly announced that it would soon be moving its embassy to Jerusalem.
Predictably, the Central American nation’s decision was praised by Israeli leaders, Jewish organizations and Evangelical Christians, while being condemned by the Palestinians and other Arab states. Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales was the recipient on January 18, 2018, of a Friends of Zion Award from Dr. Mike Evans, founder of the Friends of Zion Heritage Center in Jerusalem. He is also an earlier recipient of an honorary doctorate from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
People may wonder why a small nation like Guatemala, so removed geographically from the Middle East, was the first to follow in America’s wake on the Jerusalem issue. The answer lies in the close Guatemala-Israel relationship that goes back to even before Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948.
Just over seventy years ago, in 1947, Guatemala’s ambassador to the UN, Dr. Jorge Garcia Granados, a member of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, played a crucial role in convincing Latin American countries to vote in favor of UN General Assembly Resolution 181, which called for the partition of mandatory Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state.
Since that time, Guatemala has maintained a well-established, historic friendship with Israel, including deep security and trade ties going back decades. Another crucial element, undoubtedly, is the devout religious Evangelical faith of Guatemala’s president, Jimmy Morales.
“Guatemala has a special relationship with Israel, and we know we can continue to work together in partnership and hand in hand,” Morales told Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem during his visit to Israel in 2016.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recalled that he had grown up in Jerusalem near a street named after Morales’s country. “In just about every town in Israel there is a Guatemala Street because we remember Guatemala’s friendship and the friendship and leadership of its UN ambassador at the time of the decision on the Partition Resolution, and so Guatemala was etched into our hearts then,” he said.