Guatemala court denies attempt to nix Israel embassy move


RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — Guatemala’s highest court for civil law rejected an attempt to call off moving the country’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

The Constitutional Court of Guatemala’s five magistrates turned down a request from local attorney Marco Vinicio Mejia, who argued in a petition filed in January that the embassy move was contrary to international law, spokesman Santiago Palomo told the French news agency AFP on Saturday.

President Jimmy Morales wants to move Guatemala’s embassy in Israel from its current location in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv, to Jerusalem, as the United States plans to do.

In his brief, the lawyer argued among other things that an order issued over social media such as Facebook carried no legal standing. The court said in its ruling that “the circumstances” did not make it “advisable” to grant an injunction, though it suggested that the matter was not definitively resolved.

U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Wednesday thanked Morales for his support on the Jerusalem question. Guatemalan Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel said she has received calls from the Palestinian Authority asking for Guatemala to reconsider its stance. But the country’s position, she said, was irreversible. Last month, President Donald Trump thanked Morales in Washington for his support of the U.S. decision to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Morales said that moving the embassy to Jerusalem is “the right action to take legally and historically.” He added that Guatemala is “the United States’ strongest ally” in combating and preventing terrorism in America.

In January, Morales received the Human Rights Award from B’nai B’rith for his decision to move his country’s embassy to Jerusalem and for his unwavering support of Israel.

Morales announced the embassy move on Dec. 24. In a Facebook post, he said that he had instructed his country’s chancellor “to initiate the respective coordination so that it may be.” The decision followed a conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Days before, the U.N. General Assembly passed a nonbinding resolution rejecting any recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in reaction to President Donald Trump’s pronouncement on Dec. 6 that the United States would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and begin taking steps to move its embassy there from Tel Aviv.

Guatemala is home to about 1,000 Jews out of a population of 15 million.

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