Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes, the leader of a country considered – along with Colombia – among Israel’s best friends in South America, arrived Sunday for a three-day trip.
Coincidentally, Cartes – who was assisted in his 2013 election campaign and during his first 100 days in office by an Israeli-based consultant firm called 3H Global – arrived just days after the head of the group, Ari Harow, was questioned by police Thursday and placed under house arrest for five days.
Harrow served as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bureau chief from 2009- 2010, and - after a hiatus during which he established 3H Global - returned as his chief of staff in 2014 for a year.
He is reportedly being questioned as part of a police investigation against Netanyahu.
Some of the questioning on Thursday reportedly dealt with the sale of 3H Global when he returned to Netanyahu’s office as his chief of staff. He was required to sell the company due to a possible conflict of interest, and - because he did not receive the full sum to which he was entitled - is suspected of a fictitious sale.
He is listed on the 3H Global website as the firm’s president and founder, and the blurb states that in 2013 he “worked closely with president- elect Horacio Cartes of Paraguay, on a successful campaign which highlighted key areas such as economic development, transport, education and health. Cartes’ campaign promises were transformed into a ‘100-Day Plan’ with achievable, sustainable goals which the newly formed government was able to deliver.”
Maj-Gen. (ret.) Meir Klifi, who served as Netanyahu’s military secretary from 2009 to 2010, worked with Harrow in the PMO, and is listed as a 3H Global strategic advisor.
According to a Forbes report from last year, he served as an adviser to the Paraguayan president.
Another adviser was Yechiel Leiter, one of 3H Global’s former chief executive officer’s who according to diplomatic officials developed a close relationship with the Paraguayan leader. Leiter’s Wikipedia entry says that “in his capacity as CEO of 3H, he co-authored the 100-Day Plan for the new government of Paraguay and was the key architect of the government’s economic development plan.”
Cartes won the election in 2013, and soon after his elections told then deputy foreign minister Ze’ev Elkin, who attended his inauguration, that he was interested in strengthening bilateral relations with Israel as well as pursuing an “independent” policy of supporting Israel in international forums, as opposed to the voting patterns of the vast majority of Latin American states.
In 2012, even before the election, Paraguay – along with Colombia – were the only South American countries that did not vote for granting the Palestinians non-member statehood status in the UN General Assembly.
And after the election, Paraguay’s vote is one that Israel knows will in most cases not be used against it.
For instance, in the UNESCO vote in April that effectively denied any Jewish connection to Jerusalem, Paraguay was one of 17 countries that abstained. It also voted for Israel at a very significant vote in the IAEA last September that would have forced Israel to open its nuclear facilities to international inspectors. And In 2015 it was not present for a vote on a UN resolution that mandated raising of the Palestinian flag at the world body.
Also, in 2014 Cartes stood by Israel during the Operation Protective Edge, and did not condemn Israel even though some other Latin American states were extremely critical, and some – such as Brazil, Peru, Chile, El Salvador and Ecuador – recalled their ambassadors in protest at Israel’s actions.
Israel closed its embassy in Asunción in 2002 because of budgetary considerations, and as a result Paraguay closed its embassy in Tel Aviv.
Paraguay reopened its offices in 2014, and Israel reopened its embassy in Paraguay in 2015, even as it decided to close consulates at other locations as a cost-saving measure.
Cartes is scheduled to meet President Reuven Rivlin on Monday, as well as with Likud Minister Tzachi Hanegbi. He will also go to Yad Vashem and the Western Wall before being hosted for a state dinner by Rivlin.
On Tuesday he will meet Opposition leader Isaac Herzog, and then with Netanyahu, where a number of bilateral agreements will be signed. He is scheduled to fly home that afternoon.