Israel in talks with '10 countries' on moving capital to Jerusalem

JERUSALEM • Israel is in touch with "at least 10 countries" over the possible transfer of their embassies to Jerusalem after the United States recognised the city as Israel's capital, a deputy minister has said.

"We are in contact with at least 10 countries, some of them in Europe," to discuss the move, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely told public radio on Monday.

She spoke a day after Guatemala said it would move its embassy to the city, a move slammed by Palestinian officials as "shameful".

Ms Hotovely said US President Donald Trump's decision would "trigger a wave" of such moves.

She did not name the 10 countries, but public radio cited Israeli diplomatic sources as saying Honduras, the Philippines, Romania and South Sudan are among those considering such a move.

Two-thirds of United Nations members voted last Thursday for a resolution rejecting Mr Trump's controversial move, reaffirming that Jerusalem's status must be resolved through negotiations.

Israel seized the eastern part of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move not recognised by the international community.

Several mainly Latin American countries had diplomatic missions in Jerusalem until a 1980 UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel's attempt to alter the "character and status" of the city, saying it was a barrier to peace.

Mr Trump's announcement on Dec 6 sparked anger in the Palestinian territories and across the Muslim world.

Israelis see the whole of the city as their undivided capital while the Palestinians view the east as the capital of their future state.

No country has its embassy in Jerusalem now, instead keeping them in the Israeli commercial capital Tel Aviv.

Guatemala said on Monday it is starting the process of moving its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, after President Jimmy Morales announced he would follow Mr Trump's controversial lead on the holy city.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Guatemala with a "God bless you", while the Palestinians said the Central American country was "on the wrong side of history".

The US is an important source of assistance to Guatemala and Honduras, and Mr Trump had threatened to cut off financial aid to countries that supported the UN resolution.

Mr Matty Cohen, Israel's ambassador to Guatemala, said on Army Radio that no date had been set for the embassy move, "but it will happen after" the US relocates its own embassy to Jerusalem. US officials have said that move could take at least two years.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 27, 2017, with the headline 'Israel in talks with '10 countries' on moving capital to Jerusalem'. Print Edition | Subscribe