Guatemala's President Jimmy Morales arrived in Israel Tuesday to attend the opening ceremony for his country's embassy in Jerusalem, following the lead of the United States, which made the controversial move Monday amid massive protest and in spite of worldwide condemnation.
Morales arrived at the David Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv along with his wife, Patricia Marroquin, and was welcomed by the Guatemalan ambassador in Israel and the foreign minister Sandra Jovel, as well as Israeli foreign ministry officials.
Jovel arrived in Israel Friday to attend the opening ceremony of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem and to reaffirming Guatemala's commitment to the North American country.
The president was accompanied by the Defense Minister Luis Miguel Ralda, the Economy Minister Acisclo Valladares, the President of the Congress Alvaro Arzu Escobar and the Strategic Intelligence Minister Mario Duarte Garcia.
The official visit will last only two days, and Morales will reportedly meet with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and have lunch with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Later he is expected to meet Jerusalem's Mayor Nir Barkat and receive honorary keys of the city.
He is also expected to meet the Guatemalan community in Israel before returning to Guatemala Thursday.
Honduras and Paraguay are the other Latin American countries, which have confirmed they will move their embassies to Jerusalem.
Morales announced his decision to move Guatemala's embassy to Jerusalem in March as a show of support for the U.S.' decision to do the same, in a move that further reaffirms a decades-long relationship between right-wing Guatemalan governments and successive Israeli governments.
In December 2017, Morales said that Guatemala had been “historically pro-Israel” and that they have considered them as allies since the time of its creation. Therefore, moving the embassy is a continuation of 70 years of a supportive relationship.
A review of Guatemalan-Israeli diplomatic relations supports Morales' comments. In the early 1980s, the Israeli military helped the Guatemalan regimes that carried out a genocide against the Mayan population. Between 1954 and 1996, the Guatemalan juntas killed more than 200,000 people, 83 percent of which were Indigenous Mayans, with the assistance of the U.S. and Israel.
Even though thousands of Mayans were killed during the Guatemalan Civil War, the period known as the “Mayan Genocide,” which lasted from 1981 to 1983 coincides with the peak of Israel-Guatemala military cooperation.