Honduras to Inaugurate Trade Mission in Jerusalem
Honduran president expected for opening ceremony deemed “illegal” by Palestinians
With the upcoming opening of a Honduran trade mission in Jerusalem, Israel has not only moved forward in its quest to enhance international diplomatic presence in the disputed city which both Israelis and Palestinians claim as their capital, but is also positioning itself as a preferred trade partner for developing economies.
“Israel is making an impact… specifically in the developing world… seeking to open new markets for Israeli technology,” Hebrew University Political Science Professor Dr. Yonatan Freeman told The Media Line.
“Israel realizes many developing countries in the past stayed away from talking to Israel because of the Palestinian conflict. [Now,] what Honduras and others realize is they should strengthen relations with Israel because that could lead to increased trade.”
The Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández would be arriving in Israel on Saturday night to participate in the opening ceremony for the trade mission.
Following the controversial relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem in May 2018, only Guatemala and Paraguay immediately followed suit, with Asuncion soon after returning its diplomats to Tel Aviv, where most foreign embassies are located.
However, on Thursday, the Republic of Nauru, a tiny island in the Pacific ocean, similarly recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Nevertheless, Freeman noted that while other countries have not opened embassies in Jerusalem, several European nations are discussing opening trade missions in what Israel considers its undivided capital.
“True, if you look at the numbers, most [countries] do not have an embassy in Jerusalem but… some of them think that [if] they improve their relations with [Israel] they could improve their relations with the United States,” Freeman said.
“Honduras and Guatemala have had foreign aid funds cut [by US President Donald Trump], and they may feel that by increasing relations with Israel and moving ahead with a policy similar to Trump [this] could increase their friendship with the Americans.”
In addition, Freeman noted, in moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, President Trump did not specifically determine the future borders of the holy city, leaving open the possibility that portions of it could be allocated to the Palestinians in a future peace deal.
Political science professor Amneh Badran of the Palestinian Al-Quds University in Jerusalem told The Media Line that opening such trade missions was an unofficial way of declaring Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which she claimed jeopardized Palestinian rights.
“This is a violation of international law,” Badran said. “Palestinians see this step as a big danger in terms of losing [our] political rights in Jerusalem. It undermines the two-state solution and undermines the Palestinian endeavor to have at least East Jerusalem as their capital for any future Palestinian state.”
Marwan Burini, Palestinian ambassador to El Salvador and Honduras, said the Palestinian government opposes the opening of any form of diplomatic mission in Jerusalem.
“Both Palestinian officials and our Palestinian community in these [Central American] countries are against the opening of any commercial, trade or tourist mission in Jerusalem because it contradicts United Nations resolutions and the established consensus which existed before the opening of the US embassy [in Jerusalem],” Burini told The Media Line.
He added that Guatemala and Honduras received commercial, trade and military assistance from Israel.
“Everything here has a price… and this is the price these countries pay for [Israeli] support,” Burini said, noting that Palestinian officials have actively tried to dissuade other countries from opening missions in Jerusalem.
They succeeded in convincing Brazil and the Czech Republic to hold off on their plans, he contended, although Hungary and Romania have opened small missions in Jerusalem.
“When we hear anyone wants to open an office [in Jerusalem] our diplomats get into motion,” Burini explained. “With some we are successful…but they are sovereign countries and make their own decisions, but we think they are violating our right to have Jerusalem as our capital.”