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Why Guatemala Was the First to Join the U.S. in Recognizing Jerusalem

Dec. 27 2017

On Sunday, Guatemala announced its intention to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem—making it the first country to follow America’s lead in doing so. Honduras, Togo, Paraguay, Romania, and Slovakia are reportedly considering doing the same. Rafael Ahren explains that the decision comes on the heels of a long history of Israeli-Guatemalan friendship:

Seventy years ago, Guatemala’s ambassador to the UN, Jorge Garcia Granados, a member of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, played a crucial role in convincing Latin American countries to vote in favor of General Assembly Resolution 181, which called for the partition of Mandatory Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state. Guatemala was [also] one of the first countries to recognize the nascent state of Israel [after it declared its independence in 1948]. . . .

In the 1970s, Israel was said to have assisted the military juntas ruling Guatemala a great deal in the area of counterinsurgency, providing them with advice and equipment. . . . Ties [have] also been strong in the fields of civilian technology and tourism, among others. . . . In December 2013, Otto Fernando Perez Molina became the first president of Guatemala to visit Israel. . . .

Fast forward to 2015, when [Guatemala’s President Jimmy] Morales—a former comedian who’d never held political office—won the country’s presidential elections with 67 percent of the votes. Morales, a devout evangelical Christian, has . . . called his country’s relationship with Israel “excellent.”

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Jerusalem, Latin America

 

Israel Agreed Not to Retaliate During the Persian Gulf War—and Paid a Price for It

Feb. 19 2018

During the Persian Gulf War of 1991, Saddam Hussein fired 39 Scud missiles at Israel, killing one person and causing extensive property damage. Under intense pressure from the first Bush administration to sit still—ostensibly because Israeli involvement in the war could lead Arab states to abandon the White House’s anti-Iraq coalition—Jerusalem refrained from retaliating. Moshe Arens, who was the Israeli defense minister at the time, comments on the decision in light of information recently made public:

[W]hat was George H.W. Bush thinking [in urging Israel not to respond]? His secretary of state, James Baker, had accompanied the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Charles (Chas) Freeman, on a visit to King Fahd in Riyadh on November 2, 1990, two-and-a-half months before the beginning of the war, to obtain the king’s approval for additional deployment of U.S. troops in his kingdom in preparation for the attack on Iraq.

He was told by the king that although they would not welcome Israeli participation in the war, he understood that Israel could not stand idly by if it were attacked by Iraq. If Israel were to defend itself, the Saudi armed forces would still fight on America’s side, the king told Baker. So much for the danger to the coalition if Israel were to respond to the Scud attacks. Israel was not informed of this Saudi position.

So why was President Bush so intent on keeping Israel out of the war? It seems that he took the position, so dominant in the American foreign-policy establishment, that America’s primary interest in the Middle East was the maintenance of good relations with the Arab world, and that the Arab world attached great importance to the Palestinian problem, and that as long as that problem was not resolved Israel remained an encumbrance to the U.S.-Arab relationship. If Israel were to appear as an ally of the U.S. in the war against Iraq, that was likely to damage the image the U.S. was trying to project to the Arabs.

In fact, immediately upon the conclusion of the war against Saddam Hussein, Baker launched a diplomatic effort that culminated in the Madrid Conference in the hope that it would lead to a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It didn’t. . . .

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: George H. W. Bush, Israel & Zionism, Israeli history, Peace Process, Persian Gulf War, US-Israel relations