Israel retaliates after Paraguay moves its embassy back to Tel Aviv

17 2018 shows tear gas canisters thrown by Israeli forces at Palestinian protesters during a demonstration along the border of the Gaza Strip east of Gaza City

17 2018 shows tear gas canisters thrown by Israeli forces at Palestinian protesters during a demonstration along the border of the Gaza Strip east of Gaza City

Israel has closed its embassy in Paraguay following the South American country's decision to move its embassy in the Jewish state from Jerusalem back to Tel Aviv.

No country, up until last week, had held its embassy in Jerusalem instead keeping them in Israeli commercial capital Tel Aviv.

Former President Horacio Cartes opened the new embassy in Jerusalem on May 21, giving a diplomatic victory to Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu.

The lengthy statement from Paraguay articulated the country's history of support for both Israel and a Palestinian state that "live side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders".

Netanyahu called the move at the time "a great day for Israel, a great day for Paraguay, a great day for our friendship". But new President Mario Abdo Benitez opposed the shift.

"Paraguay is a country of principles", Abdo said on Twitter.

Israel's immediate reaction highlights its sensitivity over the status of Jerusalem, which it regards as its capital.

His foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki, pushed the freshly installed Paraguay administration to reverse its decision, according to a statement from his office which announced "a new Palestinian diplomatic achievement".

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The move presents an embarrassing diplomatic setback for Israel, which had hoped to build on the momentum started by the U.S., Guatemala and Paraguay, which all moved their embassies to Jerusalem in May.

In response, Israel announced it will close its embassy in Paraguay and recall its ambassador, the Haaretz newspaper quoted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office as saying.

"Minister Maliki exerted a big effort during his meeting with the new president who instructed his foreign minister to arrange the issue", said the P.A. foreign ministry.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest obstacles to forging a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Palestinians want Jerusalem's eastern sector as capital of a hoped-for state, while Israel sees the entire city as its eternal, undivided capital. Two days later, Guatemala opened its embassy in Jerusalem.

The Palestinians, who were infuriated by the embassy moves, particularly America's, celebrated Paraguay's reversal.

Cartes had traveled to Jerusalem to inaugurate the new embassy in May.

On Wednesday while meeting Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, Netanyahu said: "I appreciate your decision to open an honorary consulate in Jerusalem, and I hope, I hope, I hope it's the first step toward establishing the Bulgarian embassy in Jerusalem".

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