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Dominican Republic mulls embassy move to Jerusalem

Israel is welcoming a declaration by the Dominican Republic that it may consider relocating its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Santo Domingo’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Friday revealing that the move is being evaluated at the request of the local Jewish community. Some 3,000 Jews are estimated to live in the Caribbean country, amounting to 0.01% of the population. During the last census (2014), 95% of the population identified themselves as Christian.

It is interesting to note that many Jews expelled during the Spanish Inquisition made their homes in the area, and attempted to help Jews to escape the Holocaust. According to Israel’s Foreign Ministry, the Dominican Republic was the “notable exception” at the “bleak panorama” of the international 1938 Evian Conference to help persecuted peoples in Europe, and “the only nation willing to receive Jewish refugees.” In fact, the country offered to accept 100,000 European Jews, but only about 5,000 were able to escape the Nazi occupation.

The Ministry also noted that its embassy in Israel had been in Jerusalem until 1980. In addition to diplomatic ties, the two countries share commercial and cultural relations. Israel has also provided aid and technical assistance in exchange for frequent support from the DR in the international arena.

Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi praised the Caribbean country and expressed gratitude to his Dominican counterpart Roberto Alvarez Gil for considering the move. In a message posted on his official Twitter account, Ashkenazi wrote, “I thanked him during our phone call yesterday for this important decision and for the many years of friendship between our two countries.”

The announcement comes just two months after the inauguration of the DR’s new President Luis Abinader, whose paternal grandfather immigrated from Lebanon. He was educated in the United States, and has described his country’s relationship with the U.S., which is its main trade partner, as “very special.” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was among other world leaders who attended Abinader’s swearing-in ceremony.

The Dominican Republic has also joined Israel as one of the few countries to side with the U.S. on its failed bid to extend the United Nations arms embargo on Iran. The DR was the only one of the other 14 countries on the U.N. Security Council to vote in favor of Washington’s proposal, while longtime allies France, Britain and Germany abstained.

The Dominican pro-Israel declaration also comes just days ahead of the U.S. presidential election, and in the footsteps of decisions by other Latin American countries to move their own embassy to Jerusalem or take it under consideration.

The U.S. recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in late 2017 and relocated its official diplomatic compound to the city the following year. Guatemala also made the move in 2018, while Honduras has vowed to do so by the end of this year. Brazil is also mulling the move.