Jerusalem em­bassy lasts just 16 weeks


FEW COUN­TRIES have moved their em­bassies twice in the space of three months, but Paraguay has done just that, trans­fer­ring its em­bassy in Is­rael back from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv.

Luis Castiglioni , the coun­try’s rel­a­tively new for­eign min­is­ter, ex­plained that his coun­try wished to con­trib­ute to “the in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion of re­gional and in­ter­na­tional diplo­matic ef­forts [in the Mid­dle East] with the aim of achiev­ing a broad, just and last­ing peace.” The sta­tus of Jerusalem was “one of the most complex com­po­nents of the Mid­dle East con­flict” which had to be “tack­led by the par­ties in­volved through ne­go­ti­a­tions”, he added.

But while Mr Castiglioni said his coun­try wanted “ex­cel­lent re­la­tions” with both Is­rael and the Pales­tinian Author­ity, he prompted a fu­ri­ous re­sponse: Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu said Paraguay’s move had cast a shadow on the links be­tween them and an­nounced Is­rael would close its own em­bassy in Paraguay. In stark con­trast, the Pales­tinian Author­ity de­clared it would im­me­di­ately open its own Em­bassy in Asun­ción in an act of “grat­i­tude for the Paraguayan de­ci­sion.”

The orig­i­nal de­ci­sion to trans­fer Paraguay’s em­bassy in Is­rael to Jerusalem was taken by out­go­ing pres­i­dent Ho­ra­cio Cartes on May 9, just days af­ter the United States moved its own mis­sion there.

Mr Ne­tanyahu and Mr Cartes both at­tended the in­au­gu­ra­tion of the Paraguayan Em­bassy in Jerusalem’s Malha Tech­nol­ogy Park on May 21. Paraguay’s move came five days af­ter Gu­atemala agreed a sim­i­lar re­lo­ca­tion. At the cer­e­mony, Mr Ne­tanyahu told Mr Cartes: “Paraguay sup­ported the cre­ation of the State of Is­rael in the United Na­tions. We will never for­get that. Paraguay took a very bold stance in in­ter­na­tional af­fairs and re­fused to co­op­er­ate with the lies directed against Is­rael.”

In re­marks that in ret­ro­spect fore­shad­owed tougher times, he added: “We re­mem­ber our friends. We have no bet­ter friends than you.” But Mario Abdo Benítez, Paraguay’s new pres­i­dent sworn in last month, openly op­posed the move, which was de­cided while he was pres­i­dent-elect. The Pales­tinian For­eign Min­is­ter, Riyad al-Ma­liki, had been push­ing him to re­verse it ever since.

Mr al-Ma­liki praised the de­ci­sion to trans­fer the em­bassy back to Tel Aviv, say­ing that it was “in ac­cor­dance with in­ter­na­tional law and Se­cu­rity Coun­cil de­ci­sions. It’s a break­through for Pales­tinian diplo­macy vis-à-vis the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.”

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is push­ing Paraguay for a re­think. A state­ment by the White House on Thurs­day of last week said that it had “strongly en­cour­aged” Mr Benítez to main­tain Paraguay’s pre­vi­ous com­mit­ment to its Em­bassy to Jerusalem “as a sign of the his­toric re­la­tion­ship the coun­try has main­tained with both Is­rael and the United States.”

But the pol­icy shift in pol­icy re­flects di­vi­sions in Paraguayan do­mes­tic pol­i­tics as much as it does dif­fer­ences over the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict.

Mr Benítez is a right-wing for­mer se­na­tor and be­longs to the same Colorado Party as Mr Cartes, but the two have fallen out over the new pres­i­dent’s fail­ure to sup­port his pre­de­ces­sor’s ef­forts to take an elected seat in the Se­nate. That move that would have given Mr Cartes greater in­flu­ence and pos­si­ble im­mu­nity from pros­e­cu­tion.


Pres­i­dent Mario Abdo Benítez

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