Kobi Gideon/GPO
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Paraguay's President Horacio Manuel Cartes Jara. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

“The world appreciates countries that stand firmly behind bold decisions and not countries that change their mind after a few months,” said Israeli Deputy Minister Michael Oren.

By: United with Israel Staff

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday instructed the Foreign Ministry to close the Israeli Embassy in Paraguay and to return Israeli Ambassador Ze’ev Harel for consultations in Israel after Paraguay announced it was moving its embassy from Jerusalem back to Tel Aviv.

Paraguay moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May, following the US, but a change in the country’s leadership and massive Palestinian pressure brought a reversal in the South American country’s policy.

“Israel views with utmost gravity the extraordinary decision by Paraguay which will cloud bilateral relations,” the foreign ministry stated.

Paraguay’s Foreign Minister Luis Alberto Castiglioni said at a news conference that he hoped “the friends of Israel will not be bothered” by this sudden reversal and expressed hope for “excellent ties of friendship and cooperation” with both “the states of Israel and Palestine.”

New Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benitez had opposed the switch even before taking office in August and said this move was meant to promote peace.

Castiglioni acknowledged that “some Arab governments expressed their concern to us” after the embassy was shifted to Jerusalem.

He stressed his intention to retain good ties with Israel, saying, “We are friends and historic allies.”

The Palestinians, who were infuriated by the embassy moves, particularly America’s, celebrated Paraguay’s reversal. In a statement, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said Paraguay had pledged two weeks ago to return the embassy to Tel Aviv during a visit by Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki to the country.

The statement said Malki “expresses his appreciation and gratitude to the Paraguayan president and his foreign minister for moving the embassy back and for their commitment to international law.”

Israeli Deputy Minister Michael Oren condemned Paraguay’s move, saying it will “certainly harm our bilateral relations” and may also negatively impact the country’s relations with the US.

Israel maintains close cooperation with Paraguay in the areas of water, agriculture, education and medicine. The two nations maintain a bilateral free trade agreement within the framework of Mercosur – the South American Common Market.

“The world appreciates countries that stand firmly behind bold decisions and not countries that change their mind after a few months,” Oren said.