It All Started at Lunch With Sara Netanyahu: The Strange Deal Between Israel and Honduras

President Juan Hernández inaugurated a new trade mission in Jerusalem which could create 5,000 job openings for Hondurans in Israel. But the foreign ministry says no official agreement has been drafted

Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu with the President Morales of Guatemala Jaim, May 16, 2018
Marc Israel Sellam

During a state visit to Israel, Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández inaugurated a trade mission in Jerusalem on September 1 – and at the same time, his foreign minister and his government’s website stated that 5,000 job opportunities would be created for Hondurans in Israel.  

In May 2018 the United States moved its embassy to Jerusalem, which was considered a coup for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in advance of the election 11 months later. While Honduras has not decided to move its embassy from Rishon Letzion, President Hernández reportedly opened the new trade office – which is to have diplomatic status – as a step toward moving the embassy to Jerusalem in the future.

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Honduran Foreign Minister Lisandro Rosales noted in an announcement last Tuesday, about the possibility of thousands of jobs for Hondurans in Israel, that the country particularly needs people to work in geriatric care and construction.

A source at the Honduran embassy said the employment opportunities would be created by virtue of the economic ties that are now developing between the two countries.

Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández listens to the crowd during a rally in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Aug. 5, 2019.
Elmer Martinez/AP

Honduras' government website noted that the labor ministry would be responsible for reviewing the candidates applying for the positions.

The income per capita in Honduras was, as of 2017, $4,630 as compared with $38,060 in Israel that same year; thus, announcement of possible work in Israel engendered some excitement in the Central American country.

However, last week a source at the Israeli Foreign Ministry said no official agreement involving workers from Honduras has been drafted. Creating thousands of jobs for foreign workers in the country is a complicated matter with economic ramifications that demand a government resolution – no trivial matter at present, and especially before an election, when one of the burning issues is immigration, and concern over the loss of local jobs to foreigners.

Moreover, if there is no firm agreement, why would Honduran government leaders bring up the idea, and cite specific numbers?

Last week the Israeli prime minister’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, explained during a broadcast by the Likud party's mobile election studio, which is run by Culture Minister Miri Regev, how the trade mission idea arose.

“I want to tell you how it all began,” Netanyahu said. “I was invited for an official visit to Guatemala with a diplomatic mission of the Foreign Ministry, by the wife of Guatemalan president, Patricia de Morales. I made an official visit [in December 2018] and participated in official, important ceremonies. We donated a life-saving medicine to the children of Guatemala and established a new neighborhood and village [to replace ones] destroyed by a volcanic eruption, and called the neighborhood ‘the new Jerusalem.’ It was donated by the State of Israel.”

She described being invited to a “bilateral" gathering with Guatemalan President Jimmy de Morales and his wife: “During the lunch, which was warm and friendly, I asked the president for help in moving the Honduran embassy to Jerusalem [Guatemala moved its own embassy there in May 2018]. He immediately called his friend, the president of Honduras, Juan Hernández, and said he was having lunch with me and that I suggested he move the embassy to Jerusalem."

Added Netanyahu, "That is how the dialogue between the countries began, which will reach a climax with the establishment of the diplomatic mission in Jerusalem. It’s very exciting."