Promise of diplomatic move fails to impress analysts
Israel and Honduras reiterated their intentions early Monday to open embassies in each other’s capitals this year.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, during a friendly telephone conversation Sunday, stressed their “intention to complete the plan of action before the end of this year with reciprocal opening and inauguration of their embassies in … Tegucigalpa and Jerusalem,” the prime minister’s office said.
Hernández, meanwhile, published a more restrained tweet, in which he expressed his “hope to complete this step before the year’s end, as long as the pandemic permits it.”
The plans to establish an Israeli embassy in Tegucigalpa and to transfer the Honduran one from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem were announced by the Jewish state and the Central American nation nearly three years ago. After the United States opened its Jerusalem embassy in May 2018, Honduras, along with Guatemala, promised it would follow suit. Since then, despite the two countries opening trade offices in their respective capitals, official embassies have yet to be established.
“This is a complex puzzle of interests,” Mauricio Dimant, coordinator of the Latin American Unit at the Hebrew University’s Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace, told The Media Line.
They also want to get a foot in the door in terms of relations with the US, to enter the club of states that are close to [President Donald] Trump
“Honduras wants to enter Israel’s ecosystem. It doesn’t want to buy anything, just to acquire Israeli knowledge and experience in fields like technology and innovation,” he explains. “They also want to get a foot in the door in terms of relations with the US, to enter the club of states that are close to [President Donald] Trump.
“Israel is a good way to do that. Now, since they don’t have much to offer Israel in terms of economic incentives, they understand that the diplomatic avenue – recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – is the best way,” Dimant says.
This is just the repackaging of old news. [Honduras] promised the same thing two years ago
Prof. Arie Kacowicz, an expert on Latin American international relations at the Hebrew University, recommends tempering the excitement over Monday’s “recycled” announcements.
“This is just the repackaging of old news,” he told The Media Line, “[Honduras] promised the same thing two years ago.”
According to Kacowicz, even if Honduras does eventually follow through with its commitment to transfer its embassy to Jerusalem, Israel should not expect the move to fundamentally change Latin America’s relations toward it.
“The most important countries for Israel are Brazil, Mexico and Argentina, in that order,” he notes. “Brazil’s president [Jair Bolsonaro] promised to move [his country’s] embassy [to Jerusalem] too, but after being elected, he didn’t do it, because of Brazil’s strong trade ties with Arab countries. Mexico and Argentina aren’t even close.”
Honduras has a very problematic standing in Latin America. It won’t cause anyone in the continent to change their stance toward Israel
Dimant agreed with the assessment, calling Mexico and Brazil the “main prizes” in the region. “But Honduras has a very problematic standing in Latin America,” he says. “It won’t cause anyone in the continent to change their stance toward Israel.”
In a celebratory ceremony at the White House last week, Netanyahu signed the historic Abraham Accords – two bilateral agreements to normalize relations with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Earlier last month, the US announced it had brokered a one-year cessation of hostile diplomatic acts between Serbia and Kosovo, a pact in which Israel was thrown in as well. Both Balkan countries agreed to establish embassies in Jerusalem, a commitment they have since attempted to walk back.
“This is all about politics and elections,” Dimant says. “Leaders, in Israel, the US and Honduras, want momentum. From Israel’s standpoint, it doesn’t have much to gain in terms of financial, tangible benefits. It’s a symbolic, political move.”
Added Kacowicz: “In terms of the rule of law, these aren’t the best countries Israel can strengthen relations with. But then again, Israel can’t really be too picky about whom to do that with.”
In terms of the rule of law, these aren’t the best countries Israel can strengthen relations with. But then again, Israel can’t really be too picky about whom to do that with