Middle East

Honduras opens embassy in Jerusalem, 4th country to do so

JERUSALEM (AP) — Honduras on Thursday opened its embassy in contested Jerusalem, becoming the fourth country to follow the US move under former President Donald Trump to relocate its chief diplomatic mission in Israel from Tel Aviv.

To mark the occasion, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez and Israel’s new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett signed several bilateral cooperation agreements in Jerusalem on Thursday.

Israel views the entire city as its unified capital, while the Palestinians want east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. The rival claims were at the heart of the unrest in April and May that eventually ignited an 11-day Gaza war.

The US inaugurated its embassy in the city in 2018, and Guatemala, Kosovo and Honduras followed suit. Paraguay opened its embassy in Jerusalem in 2018, but then reversed course months later. Most countries maintain embassies in Tel Aviv because of Jerusalem’s disputed status — one of the thorniest issues in the Mideast conflict.

Bennett said that the opening of the Honduran Embassy in Jerusalem, and the planned reopening of the Israeli Embassy in Tegucigalpa, was “another demonstration of the deep friendship and deep connection” between the two countries. Israel previously had an embassy in Honduras until the 1990s.

Hernandez, who visited the holy city in 2019, had pledged to move his country’s embassy to Jerusalem. Israel’s then-Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in turn pledged to reopen the Tegucigalpa embassy.

Jerusalem is home to Israel’s parliament, Supreme Court, and many government offices. Israel captured east Jerusalem, along with the West Bank and Gaza, in the 1967 Mideast war and later annexed that part of the city. East Jerusalem is home to the Old City, with holy sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Palestinian protesters and Israeli police clashed in east Jerusalem on a nightly basis during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan over restrictions on a popular gathering place and other grievances. The unrest triggered an 11-day Gaza war and Arab-Jewish violence in Israel’s mixed cities.

The Trump administration’s decision to fulfill a longstanding US promise and move the embassy to Jerusalem, following Washington’s recognition that the city was Israel’s capital, flew in the face of international consensus and enraged the Palestinians.

IMAGE: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, center, and Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, left, at the prime minister’s office, in Jerusalem, Thursday, June 24, 2021.

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