Paraguay becomes third country to open embassy in Jerusalem

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Paraguay President Horacio Cartes (L) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inaugurate Paraguay's new embassy in Jerusalem, May 21, 2018 (Photo: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

The day after the biblical feast of Shavuot (the Feast of Weeks) and Pentecost Sunday, the nation of Paraguay dedicated its embassy in Jerusalem on Monday.

“It is an honor for me to be here today,” Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes said. “The opening of the embassy holds special meaning, because it expresses the sincere friendship and … solidarity between Paraguay and Israel.”

The South American nation became the third country to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem following the United States one week ago and Guatemala on Wednesday. Cartes’ decision was controversial in his country. 

“Many ask me why we decided to move the embassy to Jerusalem, and to that I can respond: We’re putting things in the right place. We don’t owe you anything, and you don’t owe us anything. This is the right thing to do,” he said.

“I don’t like binding or ambiguous positions. Our friendship is based on shared values, such as democracy, tolerance and dignity, lack of discrimination and peaceful coexistence,” Cartes added. “This is a historic day that strengthens ties between Paraguay and Israel.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Paraguay a “true friend” of Israel during the ceremony at the Malha Technological Park, where the Guatemalan embassy is also located.

“You have done much for your country. Now you’re doing something for both our countries,” Netanyahu told Cartes.

Netanyahu noted that Paraguay also helped the Jews escape Nazi Germany during World War II. 

“We will never forget it. You did it before, during and after the Holocaust,” he said “It was an expression of compassion and generosity that will always be etched in our hearts. Paraguay also supported the establishment of the State of Israel and recognized Israel at the UN. We won’t forget that, either.”

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan welcomed Cartes at Ben-Gurion Airport on Sunday night.

“The recognition of Jerusalem represents a change in the world diplomatic map: More and more countries support our positions and wish to bolster ties with us,” Erdan said. “In recent years, Paraguay has proven with a series of courageous decisions that it is a true friend. I praise the president for his support of Israel and his leadership.”

Though Guatemala and Paraguay’s embassy relocations have been much more modest than the American embassy ceremony full of pomp and circumstance they are no less significant. Other countries that have expressed interest in moving their embassies to Israel include Honduras, the Czech Republic and Romania.