First A Little, Thence To More: Honduras Moves Its Embassy To Jerusalem

The United States, Guatemala, and Kosovo have all have moved their embassies to Israel. And just now Honduras become the fourth country to do so. The story of Honduras’ move is here.

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Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett dedicated the new Embassy of Honduras in Jerusalem on Thursday. [June 24]

Bennett welcomed Hernandez to “our eternal capital, Jerusalem” and called him a true friend of Israel.

“The Jewish people have a long memory, and you will be written in the pages of history as someone who took a courageous action and the right action for the State of Israel. Thank you,” Bennett said.

Honduras is the fourth country to open an embassy in Jerusalem, after the US, Guatemala and Kosovo. In the past year, Serbia, the Dominican Republic and Malawi said they would follow. Hungary and the Czech Republic have diplomatic offices in Jerusalem, and several countries have trade offices in the capital….

Each new country that moves its embassy to Jerusalem eases the path for those that come after. The three countries that have said they will soon be opening embassies in Jerusalem – Serbia, the Dominican Republic, and Malawi — all have their own histories that explain their appearance on the list of Most-Likely-To-Follow Honduras. And we will discuss each, in turn, below.

Hernandez, a graduate of Israel’s international leadership development program MASHAV, has long been a strong supporter of Israel. He is a Catholic, but has the support of his country’s sizable Evangelical Christian population.

Bennett thanked Hernandez for “Honduras standing with Israel consistently in international organizations, even when it is not always popular and even when it has a cost. That is a sign of friendship: the willingness to take action even when it has a price.

At the U.N., during the many votes to condemn Israel, Honduras is one of only two states in Latin America that can be counted on to either vote against, or more often, to abstain….

The Embassy move automatically provides Honduras with a privileged status in Israeli eyes, and Israelis will be unstinting in the economic help they provide to Honduran farmers. Israel is a world leader in water management, including drip irrigation, wastewater management, and producing water from the ambient air. It is also a leader in solar energy, from which a country lacking in fossil fuels but with plenty of sun, like Honduras, can naturally profit. Israeli doctors have already gone to Honduras many times following natural disasters to treat its people, and have made efforts to help in improving the regular workings of the health system. As the original start-up nation, Israel also is eager to help spread the culture of innovation in places, like Honduras, not known for exhibiting an interest in such matters.

Israel is also dear to the heart of Juan Orlando Hernandez personally. Thirty years ago, in 1991, when he was 22 years old, Hernandez was selected for Israel’s Mashav leadership program, which he has described as “a life-changing experience and the origin of my deep admiration for Israel.” He frequently refers to that time he spent studying in Israel, and has returned to the country many times since. This fondness for Israel was no doubt reinforced by the views of the people who have elected him. Thirty percent of Hondurans are Evangelical Christians and strongly pro-Israel; Hernandez’ own long-held pro-Israel views help him find favor with his constituents.

Christian Serbia was for centuries oppressed by the Muslims of Ottoman Turkey; Serbs endured the devshirme, or the forced levy of their male children for the Sultan’s army; identification with Israel, like Serbia a non-Muslim country threatened by Muslim states, comes naturally to.the Orthodox Serbians.

The Dominican Republic also has some history that would explain why it might be among the next to decide to move its embassy in Israel. to Jerusalem. Jews have always been part of the Dominican Republic’s history since its earliest days. When the Evian Conference was held in July 1938 to discuss the fate of European Jewry, out of 32 nations, only one – the Dominican Republic – agreed to take in Jewish refugees. It offered refuge to as many as 100,000, but many Jews could not get visas to leave Europe and in the end only a few thousand Jews managed to escape and settle in the town of Sosua, where these urban immigrants had to learn to become farmers. The Dominican dictator, Rafael Trujillo, who had made the offer to take many Jewish refugees, was convinced that Jewish immigrants would help his country develop economically; he was right. Now it is a matter of pride for the Dominicans to note that their little country was the only one at the Evian Conference to agree to let in Jewish refugees. And such knowledge has helped create the atmospherics that prompt a pro-Israel policy, which could lead to a move of the Dominican Embassy to Jerusalem.

As for Malawi, it has maintained relations with Israel uninterruptedly since 1964; it was one of only three sub-Saharan states to do so (the others are Lesotho and Swaziland), and it has steadily received aid for its farmers from Israeli agronomists and water management specialists. It makes sense that Malawi would become the first Black African state to move its embassy to Jerusalem.

First a little, thence to more. I expect that two of the three countries discussed just above will decide before the year’s end to move their embassies to Jerusalem, following upon Honduras, and while the trickle will never become a torrent, a steady increase, with another five countries moving their embassies to Jerusalem by mid-2022 and another six by mid-2023, and another eight – bringing the total to twenty-five — by the beginning of 2025, is feasible. Their number would likely include such states that have recently shown signs of pro-Israel views, especially, but not only, at the U.N., such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Denmark, Greece, Cyprus, Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, Australia, the Marshall Islands, Lesotho, Swaziland, Ethiopia, Togo, Angola, Ghana, Brazil, Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia. The list I’ve compiled is based on a study of voting records at the U.N., and such other telling indicators as a refusal to attend Durban III, or an unwillingness to join in condemnations of Israel at fora other than the U.N., such as the European Parliament. Their voting records – changing what were once “Yes” votes on U.N. Resolutions against Israel first to “Abstain” and then to vote “No,” as well as favorable statements made about Israel by their leading political figures, help explain why I chose to list them above. Of course, one must also factor in the courage or pusillanimity of individual leaders – think, for example, of what happened to Canada’s foreign policy when Stephen Harper was replaced by Justin Trudeau. It will be interesting to look back at this list in two years, to see which countries moved their embassies to Jerusalem, and in what order.

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