Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently declared that, “In just about every town in Israel, there is a Guatemala street.”. That may seem odd, but political winds have brought Israel into close alliance with many Central and South American nations. When the recent U.S. decision to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem drew widespread international criticism, the only other two of the three countries to join the move- Guatemala , and Paraguay- are both located in Latin America. The national legislature of Honduras, another Latin American state, approved a potential future move. Why this region, and only this region? Three key reasons underlie this trend. First, in some respects these countries remain heavily dependent on U.S. aid and support, and moved their embassies to maintain (or strengthen) Washington’s backing. Secondly, Guatemala, Honduras, and Paraguay all collaborate militarily with Israel. Finally, the Evangelical community used its growing political clout to advocate for Israel, especially in Guatemala and Honduras. Although both domestic and geopolitical considerations impacted Latin American support for a Jerusalem embassy, this backing will do little to ease Israel’s isolation on the issue.

The Trump Administration wielded significant influence in gaining Latin American support for an embassy move. The U.S. dramatically announced that it “would remember” countries that supported the decision and would punish those that stood in the way. The United States still holds enough leverage among some of its southern neighbors to influence their positions on the embassy. Remittances from immigrants to the U.S. represent an astounding 10 percent of Guatemala’s GDP– not including the nearly $300 million in direct annual aid from Washington. Likewise, the Juan Orlando Hernandez administration in Honduras also feels beholden to U.S. support. Trump has supported Hernandez’s continued rule amidst substantial street protests and allegations of voter fraud. In addition, Honduras wants to prevent the deportation of nearly 57,000 immigrants that recently lost their protected status in the U.S. Supporting a major Trump foreign policy initiative could help promote a deal to keep the Honduran migrants in America. While American relations with Paraguay are less deep than ties with Honduras and Guatemala, the U.S. remains a major trading partner for Asuncion, and the two nations also cooperate on counter-drug trafficking operations.

The U.S. angle is only part of the story. Direct ties between Israel and Latin America also played a part. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to make a state visit to Honduras and Guatemala, and he also met with President Horacio Cartes of Paraguay in 2016. Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales travelled to Israel for his very first international trip while in office and received an honorary degree from Hebrew University. More tangibly, Israel has provided drones and other military technology to the Honduran armed forces, and remains a prominent security partner of Guatemala. Paraguay has also bolstered its ties with Israel under the Cartes administration. Israel and Paraguay have a free trade trade agreement that accounted for roughly $200 million in 2016. Paraguay even cooperated with the IDF to root out a covert Hezbollah cell operating near the Paraguay-Argentina-Brazil border region.

On the domestic front, Latin American governments used their embassy shifts to appease growing evangelical constituencies.  Evangelical voters care about Israeli policy and have vociferously advocated relocating embassies to Jerusalem. Approximately 40 percent of Guatemalans, including President Morales, consider themselves Evangelical Christians. This population represents an important political constituency for Morales, and he bolstered his approval rating through the Jerusalem decision. Along similar lines, the Evangelical population has also begun to flex its political muscles in Honduras. Around 22 percent of Honduras currently classifies as Evangelical, and the community has grown at a 4.4 percent annual clip. Paraguay stands as an exception here, as Catholics still comprise 90 percent of the country’s populace (with Evangelicals a relatively meager six percent). Still, the appeal to Evangelicals served as a key rationale for the Guatemalan and Honduran embassy moves.

Nevertheless, the presence of Latin American embassies in Jerusalem will not provide enough substantive diplomatic relief to Israel. Despite the embassy moves discussed above, Israel and the U.S. remain profoundly isolated on this issue. The U.N. condemned the policy by a lopsided 128-9 margin. The opponents of the embassy decision hold more international clout than the supporters – Paris outweighs Paraguay, the Hague eclipses Honduras. Even within Latin America, Israel lacks overwhelming backing, as leftist governments in countries like Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Cuba resolutely denounce Israeli government policies. Gaining the approval of international welterweights will not prevent continued condemnation of the Jerusalem embassies. Without also taking steps to set the framework for a comprehensive diplomatic deal with the Palestinians, Israel will struggle to gain meaningful support for its Jerusalem embassy policy.