Netanyahu Mediating Between Honduras, U.S. in Exchange for Jerusalem Embassy Move

Netanyahu discusses security collaborations with Hungary's Orban, direct flights from Chile to Israel through Africa with Chile's Pinera

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernandez during a meeting in Brasilia, Brazil, January 1, 2019.
\ HANDOUT/ REUTERS

Honduran President Juan Hernandez asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to mediate between him and the Trump administration in exchange for the Honduran embassy's transfer from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a senior Israeli official said on Wednesday.

"We told him we're ready to help them solve problems," said the official, who was aboard Netanyahu's plane as it returned from Brazil, where the Israeli prime minister attended Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's inauguration.

According to the official, Netanyahu and Hernandez discussed promoting the embassy's move to Jerusalem, although no timetable has been set yet. At the end of the joint meeting, an agreement was reached between the parties to strengthen diplomatic ties and collaboration regarding the development of Honduras.

The Honduran president told reporters that Israel has agreed to open up the Israeli market to coffee from Honduras, the Central American country's main export. Agreements will also be signed between the two countries in the fields of agricultural, irrigation systems and education, and President Hernandez said ties between the two countries would be strengthened in the field of domestic security as well.

Netanyahu, Hernandez and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Tuesday along the sidelines of the inauguration and discussed advancing the embassy's transfer. The meeting took place several days after U.S. President Donald Trump slammed Honduras for what he called the country's failure to help mitigate illegal immigration from Central America to the United States.

"Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador are doing nothing for the United States but taking our money," Trump tweeted. "Word is that a new Caravan is forming in Honduras and they are doing nothing about it. We will be cutting off all aid to these 3 countries - taking advantage of U.S. for years!"

Before the crisis, tension between the U.S. and Honduras rose over the strengthening of ties between the latter and China. U.S. Vice President Mike Spence warned Hernandez about the wide access to various economic projects his country offers China.

Honduras and Guatemala are considered two of the friendliest countries to Israel in Latin America. It was discernable that Guatemela's close relationship with Israel – especially its decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem – affected its relations with the Trump administration for the better. 

As reported by Haaretz in September, the U.S. was apathetic to the increasing corruption in Guatemala in the months following its embassy's move to Jerusalem. This was contrary to the strict line taken by the White House in the months preceding the transfer, with administration officials expressing support for an international investigation into the corruption there.

In addition to meeting with Pompeo, Netanyahu also held talks with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Serbian President Aleksander Vucic and other world leaders. Regarding Netanyahu's meeting with Pompeo, the official on Netanyahu's plane said the Israeli leader had eight requests, seven of which Pompeo granted. With Orban, Netanyahu discussed pushing for the leaders of the Visegrad countries – Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia – to visit Israel, as well as security collaborations. Netanyahu discussed advancing direct flights from Chile to Israel through Africa with Pinera.