Israel remembers its friends, and has no better friend than Paraguay, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday at the opening of the country’s embassy in Jerusalem.
Netanyahu, attending his third embassy opening ceremony in the capital in a week, pledged that now is the time for Israeli-Paraguayan cooperation to “flow like water.”
Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes, who arrived in Israel Sunday evening, opened the embassy along with Netanyahu in the Malha Technological Park, in the same building where Guatemala opened its embassy in the capital last week. The US transferred its embassy to its consular section building in Jerusalem’s Arnona neighborhood last Monday.
Netanyahu, who called Cartes “a great friend of Israel and a great personal friend of mine,” said that Cartes – who will be leaving office in August – has “done much” for Paraguay, and is now “doing something for both our countries.”
“This is a great day for Israel, a great day for Paraguay, and a great day for our friendship,” he said.
The prime minister recalled that Paraguay helped Jews escape Nazi Germany both before and during the Holocaust, and also took in refugees after the war.
“It was an act of benevolence and mercy that was forever engraved in our hearts,” he said.
Netanyahu also recalled that Paraguay supported the establishment of Israel during the partition vote in the UN in 1947. “Paraguay, before but especially under your leadership, took a very bold stance in international affairs and refused to cooperate with the lies directed against Israel,” Netanyahu said.
Cartes said the embassy opening “expresses the sincere friendship and brave solidarity” between the two countries. He praised Israel for courageously defending its right to live in peace, and for “building a praiseworthy economically prosperous state that ensures its future and that of its children.”
“I am not a lukewarm friend,” he said. “The unconcealed love and admiration I feel for this noble and courageous nation is based on values and principles that we share, such as democracy, freedom and the defense of human rights.”
The Palestinian Authority angrily denounced the move, with the PA Foreign Ministry issuing a statement calling it a blatant act of aggression against the Palestinian people and their rights, a scandalous violation of relevant UN resolutions and international law, and the result of American-Israeli dictates and enticement.
Cartes was the first Paraguayan leader to visit Israel, when he came here in 2016. A year later he traveled to Buenos Aires to meet Netanyahu, who was visiting Argentina on the first ever visit by a serving Israeli prime minister
to Latin America.
Cartes, whose five-year term ends in August, was elected in 2013 with a campaign team that included a group of Israeli advisers, including Netanyahu’s former bureau chief Ari Harow.
The U.S. officially opens its embassy in Jerusalem as dozens killed in Gaza protests, May 14, 2018 (Reuters)
Elections were held in Paraguay in April, but Cartes was not eligible for re-election. The election was won by co-party member Mario Abdo Benitez, who said that he was not consulted regarding the embassy move. Benitez is the grandson of a Lebanese immigrant.
Following the inauguration of the embassy, the two leaders met in the Prime Minister’s Office, and later attended a reception at the Foreign Ministry. Cartes also met Monday with President Reuven Rivlin.
Guatemala opens embassy in Jerusalem, May 16, 2018 (GPO)