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Paraguay poised to return embassy to Jerusalem

An official announcement is expected after the president-elect is sworn in next week.

From left: Sen. Gustavo Leite, chairman of the Paraguayan Israel Allies Caucus; Vice President-elect Pedro Alliana; President of the Senate Silvio Ovelar; President-elect Santiago Peña; and Leopoldo Martinez, IAF Latin America director. Credit: Courtesy.
From left: Sen. Gustavo Leite, chairman of the Paraguayan Israel Allies Caucus; Vice President-elect Pedro Alliana; President of the Senate Silvio Ovelar; President-elect Santiago Peña; and Leopoldo Martinez, IAF Latin America director. Credit: Courtesy.

Paraguay will move its embassy back to Jerusalem, in a sign of growing support for Israel in Latin America, a Paraguayan senator said on Monday.

Sen. Gustavo Leite spoke a week before Paraguayan President-elect Santiago Peña, who has pledged to move the embassy back to Israel’s capital, will be sworn into office and a month before he is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

“The president-elect is a person of his word so you can count on it that it will be done,” Leite said in a telephone interview with JNS from the Paraguayan capital of Asunción. “All the things are in place for the move.”

The president-elect told Netanyahu in a congratulatory phone call in May that he plans to return the South American country’s embassy to Jerusalem immediately after his August 15 inauguration.

Back and forth

Paraguay previously moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018, following then-President Donald Trump’s lead and becoming the third country to do so after the United States and Guatemala.

However, months later, a successive Paraguayan president returned the embassy to Tel Aviv, setting off a diplomatic crisis with Israel. The surprise decision led Israel to shutter its embassy in Paraguay, citing harm the Paraguayan move had caused to bilateral relations.

Election pledge

During this year’s election campaign, Peña pledged that he would return the embassy to Jerusalem.

“The State of Israel recognizes Jerusalem as its capital,” he said in March. “The seat of the parliament is in Jerusalem, the president is in Jerusalem. So who are we to question where they establish their own capital?”

Four countries currently have their embassies in Israel’s capital: the United States, Guatemala, Honduras and Kosovo.

With Paraguay set to move its embassy back to Jerusalem, more than half of the embassies in the city will soon be from Latin America.

Parliamentary support

Leite, who chairs the newly-launched Paraguayan Congressional Israel Allies Caucus, said on Monday that he spearheaded a parliamentary letter to the president-elect encouraging him to move the embassy as soon as possible.

“While the president has supreme power [in such a decision], it is always important that parliament lend support,” the senator said. 

More than a third of the members of the Paraguayan Senate and a quarter of the congressmen from the Chamber of Deputies have already signed the letter, he said.

History of friendship

The landlocked Paraguay, one of the poorest countries in South America, has a long history of friendship with Israel dating back to its vote for the creation of the Jewish state at the United Nations in 1947. 

“We are headed into a period of excellent relations between Israel and Paraguay under the leadership of the new president of Paraguay, Santiago Peña,” Leite said.

Leopoldo Martinez, Latin American director at the Washington-based Israel Allies Foundation, met with the senator and the president-elect at the parliament in Asunción on Monday.

“The relationship between Paraguay and Israel is entering a new era of unprecedented collaboration and achievements,” Martinez said.

Faith-based diplomacy

Mobilizing support for Israel worldwide through faith-based diplomacy, the Israel Allies Foundation has emerged as a powerhouse with its network of pro-Israel caucuses around the world based on shared Judeo-Christian values.

Over the last two decades, it has formed partnerships with 52 caucuses that make up a network of more than 1,200 legislators working to promote Israel in their respective parliaments.

“We are seeing tremendous political support for Israel through faith-based diplomacy around the world,” said Israel Allies Foundation President Josh Reinstein.

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