The location of foreign embassies in Israel has grown to be a topic of discussion that consistently stirs up controversy on a global scale. The matter is still up for debate in Paraguay, where a general election is scheduled for this Sunday.
Since former President Donald Trump relocated the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018, a few other nations have done the same, concurring with the majority of Israel’s political establishment that Jerusalem is Israel’s sole capital despite opposition from different countries and the Palestinian Authority.
Israeli conservatives, including those in power today, have actively sought out more nations to relocate their embassies and have celebrated each success as a historic accomplishment.
About the Israel embassy debate, the government of Paraguay, a nation of about seven million people between Brazil and Argentina, has gone back and forth. Horacio Cartes, the president of Paraguay at the time, transferred his country’s embassy soon after Trump did. Guatemala followed suit the following year, while Honduras and Kosovo did the same a few years later.
However, just one month after taking office, in September 2018, Mario Abdo, Cartes’ successor, declared he would relocate the embassy back to Tel Aviv. Abdo, who belonged to the same conservative party as Cartes, believed that Tel Aviv should host the Paraguayan Embassy to achieve “broad, lasting, and just peace” between Israelis and Palestinians.
Abdo rushed and encountered resistance. Pro-Israel demonstrators rallied at the president’s home in Asuncion, Paraguay.
Former vice president of the United States, Mike Pence, “strongly encouraged” Abdo to change his mind, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went above and above by closing the Israeli embassy in Paraguay.
It hasn’t been open since then.
On Sunday, election day, the discussion might resurface.
The Colorado Party, Paraguay’s right-wing political party that has governed the nation for over 80 years straight (apart from the years between 2008 and 2013), is one of the two front-runners for the presidency.
Santiago Pea, a 44-year-old economist, is one of the two leading contenders. Pea has been connected to these issues because he served as finance minister under Cartes, recently penalized by the party for suspicions of corruption.
A candidate from a state other than Colorado now has a strong chance of winning the presidency this year, in part because of those corruption claims.
A more moderate contender from Concertación, a group of political parties that banded together to challenge Colorado’s dominance, is Efra Alegre. While other polls have found Pea in the lead, Encuesta Atlas polling earlier this month had Alegre leading by a few percentage points.
In a meeting with the Paraguayan-Israeli Chamber of Commerce in March, Pea declared that one of his first acts as president, if he wins the election, will be to order the transfer of the Paraguayan embassy to Jerusalem. Paraguay, according to him, “recognizes that city as the capital of the State of Israel.”
In 2018, not long after Paraguay had relocated its embassy to Jerusalem, Efran Alegre made his final remarks on the subject. Alegre contended that the action would escalate the hostilities.
Alegre assured the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he would maintain Tel Aviv as the location of the Paraguayan mission.