JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel on Saturday welcomed a declaration by the Dominican Republic that the Caribbean country may consider moving its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
The Dominican Republic’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday it was evaluating the step at the request of the local Jewish community, noting that its embassy in Israel had been in Jerusalem until 1980.
Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi praised the Dominican Republic and expressed gratitude to his Dominican counterpart Roberto Alvarez Gil for considering it.
“I thanked him during our phone call yesterday for this important decision and for the many years of friendship between our two countries,” Ashkenazi said on Twitter.
The announcement came just two months into a new Dominican administration led by President Luis Abinader, the grandson of Lebanese immigrants. Since taking power, Abinader has described as “very special” the country’s relationship with the United States, the Dominican Republic’s main trade partner.
Coming just a few days before a US presidential election, the Dominican declaration followed on the heels of other Latin American countries that have recently moved their embassy to Jerusalem or are considering it.
US President Donald Trump, who is seeking re-election on Tuesday, enraged the Palestinians and angered many world leaders by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in late 2017, and the US embassy moved there the following year.
Guatemala moved its embassy to Jerusalem soon afterwards, and Honduras has said it aims to do the same by the end of 2020. Brazil is also mulling the move.
Jerusalem’s status has been one of the thorniest issues in the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Palestinians want East Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, as the capital of a future state. Israel regards all of the city, including the eastern sector it annexed after the 1967 war, as its capital.
Reporting by Mayaan Lubell in Jerusalem and Ezequiel Abiu Lopez in Santo Domingo; Editing by Dave Graham and Daniel Wallis
Image: FILE PHOTO: A general view picture shows the Dome of the Rock , the Western Wall and al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City January 28, 2020. REUTERS/Ammar Awad