In Wake of Trump’s Announcement, Rush to Move Embassies to Jerusalem, For Good and Bad

December 25, 2017

3 min read

US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital three weeks ago served as a powerful catalyst, leading some countries to rally behind him and move their embassies to the Holy City while causing others to double down on their anti-Israel agendas.

The first to get behind President Trump was the Czech Republic, a long-time ally of Israel, who announced their intentions the day after the president’s historic speech.

Two days later, the head of Romania’s parliament, Liviu Dragnea, said his country and the European Union nation should both “seriously consider” moving their embassies to Jerusalem. At the same time, Israeli officials announced that the Philippines also intended to move its embassy to Jerusalem. It was also announced that Hungary and Romania are considering the move.

In an interview with CNN last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that this was just the beginning.

“We’re now talking to several countries who are seriously considering saying exactly the same thing as the United States and moving their embassies to Jerusalem,” the prime minister said, though he declined to name which countries.

This prediction seems to be materializing. The head of Romania’s parliament, Liviu Dragnea, said in an interview to the Romania Journal on Friday, “All Israeli central institutions are in Jerusalem and the ambassadors and the embassy’s staff are commuting from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”

Romania made this opinion clear when they broke with the other European Union nations by abstaining from the vote in the UN General Assembly on Thursday condemning President Trump’s announcement.

Reuters News reported that on Sunday night, Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales announced he had given instructions to move the country’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Other nations have taken the president’s announcement as a call to arms against Israel. Ten days ago, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced his hopes that soon his country would be able to establish an embassy to Palestine in East Jerusalem.

“Because it is under occupation we can’t just go there and open an embassy,” Erdogan said in a speech to his party in the city of Karaman. “But, (God willing) those days are near and… we will officially open our embassy there,” he said.

Turkey currently has a general consulate in Jerusalem and an embassy in Tel Aviv. The history of relations between Turkey and Israel in recent years has had peaks and valleys. Bilateral tourism is significant and Turkey’s military has benefitted from Israel’s expertise in retrofitting older equipment. These relations were cut off in 2010 after a Turkish flotilla defied Israel’s blockade of Gaza and an international crisis developed when Israeli commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara, killing eight Turkish nationals and a Turkish American. A 2016 agreement to restore these relations have been put in doubt after Erdogan threatened to break off diplomatic ties with Israel if the United States formally recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Turkey is by no means alone. It was reported in Iranian Mehr news agency that Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the Malaysian cabinet would discuss a proposal next month made by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak for their country to open an embassy to Palestine in eastern Jerusalem.

Russia has been strangely ambiguous about the issue. In April, Russia became the first nation to recognize West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital but the announcement by their Foreign Ministry, simultaneously calling for the establishment of a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, did not generate a storm, as did President Trump’s similar statement. In response to President Trump’s announcement, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was “deeply concerned”.

There are currently ten international missions in Jerusalem but the countries which operate Consulates to Jerusalem, generally do not regard them as diplomatic missions to Israel, but as diplomatic missions to Jerusalem as a separate entity. The Vatican has its embassy to the Palestinian Authority in East Jerusalem. Its embassy to Israel is in Tel Aviv.

The only embassy to Israel in Jerusalem at this time is the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ).

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