Uruguay, a longtime supporter of Israel and one of the countries instrumental in the disputed 1947 U.N. partition of Palestine that led to the creation of the Jewish state, announced today that it will move its embassy from Jerusalem to protest recent moves by Israel to perpetuate its sovereignty over the city.
The decision announced in Montevideo, appeared to signal an exodus of Latin American countries that still maintain embassies here. Two weeks ago, Venezuela moved its embassy to Tel Aviv in protest of the Israeli parliament's reaffirmation of the 1967 annexation of East Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, the Netherlands, the only European country with its embassy in Jerusalem, postponed the arrival of its new ambassador to Israel until the Dutch Cabinet decides whether to move its embassy to Tel Aviv.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry said it was "deeply disappointed" at the Uruguayan decision, and expressed regret that "states with proud national traditions are surrendering to external pressure."
Israeli government sources pinned the blame on Arab oil-producing states, which, they said, had been "blackmailing" Latin American countries into moving their embassies.
Foreign Ministry sources said they expect other Latin American countries to announce their moves to Tel Aviv in the weeks ahead, and that the process could be hastened if Prime Minister Menachem Begin implements plans to move his offices from West Jerusalem to the predominantly Arab Sheik Jarrah quarter of East Jerusalem as a symbolic gesture of the indivisibility of the capital.
In addition to Uruguay, 10 Latin American states keep embassies in Jerusalem -- Chile, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Guatemala, Colombia, Panama and Ecuador.
Foreign Ministry officials said the government has begun an intensive diplomatic campaign to dissuade them from moving their embassies because of the parliamentary vote reaffirming Israeli's sovereignty over all of Jerusalem, including the eastern sector captured in the 1967 war.
A Foreign Ministry official said, "Israel particularly regrets and voices its deep disappointment over the fact that a friendly state such as Uruguay, whose relations with Israel have been traditionally friendly since her delegation to the United Nations worked for the establishment of the state, did not heed our representations and decided to move her diplomatic mission away from Jerusalem."
Uruguay opened its first legation to Israel in Tel Aviv in 1951, and moved to Jerusalem in 1956 when it upgraded its representation to embassy level.