Relations between Israel and Paraguay are taking a turn for the better ever since the South American republic announced that it will soon re-open its embassy in Israel. Reportedly, Paraguay had shuttered its diplomatic mission in Israel due to budgetary concerns. The new Paraguayan president, businessman and political neophyte Horacio Cartes, told the visiting Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin personally during a courtesy call last week. Israel is currently running its diplomatic operations for the Southern Cone of the continent out of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Israelis have been active as individuals in Paraguay’s political scene, despite the lack of a diplomatic presence in the country, according to Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot. Cartes relied on political advice from an Israeli campaign stratetigist, Yechiel Leiter, to put him in the driver’s seat in Asunción. Leiter had once served as an advisor to Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu. Leiter, who was born in the U.S., is a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party and most recently served as Israel’s chairman of the Ports and Railways Authority. Leiter also once served as advisor to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. A father of eight, Leiter has written several books, and also holds several advanced degrees.
Another advisor to Cartes is Israeli Major-General (Reserves) Meir Khalifi, Netanyahu’s military aide, who assists in Paraguayan security matters. Additionally, Cartes’s bodyguards are all Israeli.
Paraguay, however, has not located its embassy within Jerusalem – a sore diplomatic issue for the Jewish State. However, rather than locating in Tel Aviv – where the U.S. long had its embassy – Paraguay settled on the compromise of having its embassy in Mevaseret Zion – which is technically outside of Jerusalem, but still within its telephone area code.
Paraguay has long had a strong presence of Muslim immigrants, especially at Ciudad del Este – a border town where merchants and money-launderers of Mideastern origin have long been active.