RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — Guatemala’s President Jimmy Morales ended a four-day visit to Israel precisely sixty-nine years after the historic United Nations vote in favor of the partition of British Mandate of Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state.
Knesset President Yuli Edelstein noted Guatemala’s critical role in helping establish the state of Israel.
“The ties between Israel and Guatemala are deep and historic. Before Israel’s establishment, on the eve of the U.N. decision on November 29 [in 1947], we still remember and appreciate the actions of Guatemala’s ambassador to the U.N., Dr. Jorge Garcia Granados, who enlisted Latin American states to vote in favor of the partition plan,” Edelstein said.
“It could be that without Guatemala, the resolution on that fateful day would not have passed, and history would be very different,” he added.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the Central American leader on Tuesday, when they signed a series of bilateral agreements to seek cooperation in several sectors including agriculture, science, technology and security.
“I met in Jerusalem with President Jimmy Morales, his first visit outside of the Americas, a movement that reflects the true friendship between our countries,” Netanyahu wrote in his official Twitter account.
Morales met President Reuven Rivlin on Monday, who praised the Guatemalan president for continuing the legacy of friendship of his predecessors, and also for his country’s support in international forums. Rivlin also noted that there is hardly a town in Israel that does not have a Guatemala Street.
“I want to thank you, Mr. President, for your personal support and for the support of your country for Israel on the international stage,” Rivlin said.
Morales was awarded the honoris causa doctorate from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
“Since entering office in January, President Morales has led the struggle against government corruption in his country. He has also significantly strengthened relations between Israel and Guatemala,” read the university’s online note.
Shortly after his election last October, Morales visited the synagogue in Guatemala City, met with members of the Jewish community, and declared his desire to visit Israel. His tenure has seen a significant improvement in relations with Israel, including Guatemala’s positions at international meetings.
Guatemala is home to about 1,000 Jews out of a population of 15 million.