El Salvador denies it is moving embassy from Tel Aviv to Ramallah

(JTA) — El Salvador will not close its embassy in Israel and move it to Ramallah in retaliation for Israel’s decision to close its embassy in San Salvador due to budget cuts, the country’s newly appointed ambassador to the Jewish state said.

El Salvador is “not even thinking” of such a maneuver, reported the Times of Israel reported, citing Salvadoran Ambassador Werner Matias Romero. The statement denies rumors that the Central American nation had threatened to close its embassy in Israel and move it to the West Bank or Egypt.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry announced it intends to close its consulates in Philadelphia, Marseilles, and the Caribbean, as well as its embassies in Belarus and El Salvador. The decision to eliminate diplomatic outposts as a belt-tightening measure aims at freeing up funds needed to strengthen existing diplomatic offices.

Romero traveled to Israel only two months ago with the aim of strengthening relations between the two countries on all levels. “I am very worried that this decision will open a Pandora’s Box. What Israel has done is to bite the friendly hand that was outstretched to it. This is not how one acts towards friends,” Romero told the Times of Israel.

He pointed out that El Salvador has always stood out as a true friend of Israel’s. For instance, it voted in favor of the 1947 United Nations partition plan; Salvadoran diplomat José Castellanos was recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations by Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem memorial and museum for saving thousands of Jews during the Holocaust; and the Central American country – like its neighbor Costa Rica – kept its embassy in Jerusalem for decades.

Belarus announced that it will close its embassy in Israel to protest the Israeli decision to close the Israeli embassy in Minsk. In 2014, El Salvador followed Brazil and recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv in protest over Israel’s military operation in the Gaza Strip.

Israel has been facing another ambassadorial imbroglio in Latin America lately. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said if Brazil does not approve former settler leader Dani Dayan as its ambassador, Israel won’t offer another diplomat and a downgrade in relations between the two countries would be established. Five months have passed since his appointment.

El Salvador is home to roughly 150 Jews in a population of 6.3 million.

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