Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the foreign ministry to close Israel’s embassy in Asunción Wednesday after Paraguay did an about-face and announced it would move its embassy back to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem on Wednesday.
Former Paraguayan president Horacio Cartes personally inaugurated the new diplomatic site this past May. The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said at the time that Paraguay, the third country after the United States and Guatemala to make the move, had taken a “bold stance in international affairs”.
Netanyahu called the move at the time “a great day for Israel, a great day for Paraguay, a great day for our friendship.”
“You’ve done much for your country, and now you’re doing something for both our countries,” he added.
Netanyahu also praised Paraguay’s decades-long support of the Jewish people, including helping Jews escape Nazi Germany, Paraguay’s support of the creation of the State of Israel and its recognition of the State of Israel at the United Nations.
However, Paraguay’s new president, Mario Abdo Benítez, who took office last month, reviewed the choice and his foreign minister told reporters on Wednesday that the decision had been changed.
“Paraguay wants to contribute to an intensification of regional diplomatic efforts to achieve a broad, fair and lasting peace in the Middle East,” Luis Alberto Castiglioni said.
Shortly after, Netanyahu’s office responded by saying it will close its Paraguay embassy and recall its ambassador for consultations. “Israel views with great severity the unusual decision by Paraguay that will strain the ties between the countries,” a brief statement said.
The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, had previously called for Latin American countries not to move their embassies. His foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki, pushed the freshly installed Paraguay administration to reverse its decision, according to a statement from his office which announced “a new Palestinian diplomatic achievement”.
“Minister Maliki exerted a big effort during his meeting with the new president who instructed his foreign minister to arrange the issue,” the ministry said.
Trump’s decision broke decades of international consensus that recognition for one side or the other would kill already-moribund efforts at achieving a deal. Jerusalem has been a fundamental issue that has stalled previous negotiations, but Trump has said it is now “off the table”.