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Paraguay's Embassy is Leaving Jerusalem. Israel Closes embassy in Paraguay and Palestinian Authority Opens One

By JTA, VOA & Reuters
Israel closed its embassy in Paraguay following an announcement by the South American country that it was relocating its embassy back to Tel Aviv four months after moving to Jerusalem. The move comes as Paraguay joins the effort to bring peace to the Middle East. "Paraguay wants to contribute to an intensification of regional diplomatic efforts to achieve a broad, fair and lasting peace in the Middle East," Foreign Minister Luis Alberto Castiglioni told reporters on Wednesday. Shortly after the announcement of the return to Tel Aviv, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu recalled his country's ambassador to Paraguay and then ordered the Israeli embassy closed. Netanyahu also holds the foreign minister's portfolio. "Israel views with great severity the unusual decision of Paraguay, which will cloud bilateral relations," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Paraguay opened its new embassy in Jerusalem in May, a week after the United States moved its embassy to the capital from Tel Aviv and days after Guatemala. "A great day for Israel. A great day for Paraguay. A great day for our friendship," Netanyahu said at the time. "You have not only the support of our government but the profound gratitude of the people Israel." "Paraguay helped the Jews escape Nazi Germany," the prime minister said of the historical bond between Paraguay and the Jewish people. We will never forget it. You did it before, during and after the Holocaust. It was an expression of compassion and generosity that will always be etched in our hearts. Paraguay also supported the establishment of the State of Israel and recognized Israel at the UN. We won't forget that, either," the premier added. "You're an amazing friend to Israel," Netanyahu told then-President Horacio Cartes. "Under your leadership, Paraguay made courageous moves in the international arena and refused to take part in the lies against Israel. It's time we do a lot more together and increase the cooperation between us. We've been discussing water, agriculture, security, and we are doing and want to do more. And we will." A previous embassy in a Jerusalem suburb was closed in 2012 in retaliation for Israel shuttering its diplomatic mission in the Paraguayan capital of Asuncion as part of a round of budget cuts. A new Paraguayan embassy opened a year later near Tel Aviv. Cartes, who left office in mid-August when the government of Mario Abdo Benitez took over, announced in late April during an event in Asuncion marking Israel's 70th Independence Day that he planned to move the embassy before the end of his term. It is not known if Cartes consulted with Benítez before announcing the move. The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday welcomed Paraguay's decision to relocate its embassy in Israel back to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem. The PA official in charge of foreign affairs, Minister Riyad al-Maliki, announced that the PA had decided to "immediately" open an embassy in Paraguay's capital Asuncion.

Maliki expressed gratitude to the president and foreign minister of Paraguay for their commitment to international law and United Nations Security Council resolutions, particularly a resolution from 1980 that bans countries from recognizing Israel's sovereignty over "occupied Jerusalem" or moving their embassies to the city, reported the Wafa news agency. He also urged other countries to open embassies in Paraguay in a show of solidarity with that country. PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas' office welcomed Paraguay's decision as well and described it as courageous. "This decision was in line with international resolutions and was the result of the wise and vigorous Palestinian diplomatic efforts to explain the dangers of the transfer of embassies to Jerusalem on the peace process in the Middle East and the establishment of the independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital," said a statement from Abbas' bureau quoted by Wafa. It stressed as well that "this courageous move by the Paraguayan government is an example for all countries in facing Israeli greed and attempts by the American administration to impose it on the world when it moved its embassy to Jerusalem in the so-called deal of the century." The presidency praised all the countries that rejected the US move and considered it a threat to the entire peace process in the region.

How the Mossad Operation to Retrieve Iran's Nuclear Files Took a Surprising Turn

By the Jerusalem Post
The Mossad agents who appropriated Iran's nuclear secrets from a warehouse in Tehran in January knew they would be taking a large number of folders, but did not realize there would be a large volume of disks, Yediot Aharonot's Ronen Bergman reported on Wednesday. The Mossad agents involved were reportedly so surprised that they checked in with Mossad chief Yossi Cohen who was observing the mission from Israel. Cohen quickly gave the order to take as many of the disks as they could get. The report said that in preparing for the operation, the planners debated whether to photograph the files or physically bring them – a more complex operation. At all stages, including mid-operation, Cohen pressed to bring back as much original evidence as possible to counter any claims from Iran that the evidence was doctored. His ad hoc call mid-operation ended up having important repercussions as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu decided to break with precedent and publicly present the intelligence materials in a press conference on April 30. Many say that Netanyahu's presentation moved President Donald Trump the final mile toward deciding to abandon the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Further, the report said that information contained on the disks provided a wealth of data about Iran's nuclear activities that were not in the files.

Poll: Only 30% of High Schoolers Know Lyrics of 'Hatikvah,' Israel's National Anthem

By Israel Hayom
A poll conducted by Israel Hayom before Israeli high school students returned school this week points to a disconcerting lack of general knowledge and familiarity with many subjects that are covered in their textbooks or frequently appear in the media. A sample of 514 students from the 11th and 12th grades in the Jewish sector was asked various questions about civics, history and current events. The same question, incidentally, was presented by Israel Hayom to a representative sample of teachers in 2015, which also exposed problematic results. The internet poll was conducted during the last week of August. It did not include students from the Arab sector so as to avoid influencing the results, mainly due to questions of a political or nationalistic nature – such as what happened on Nov. 29, 1947; what are the names of Israel's wars; what is the Green Line; and what are the words to the national anthem, "Hatikvah." The sample pool was divided equally along gender lines (257 boys, 257 girls). Among those questioned, 51% were from secular schools, 28% from national-religious schools, 13% from ultra-Orthodox schools and 7% from private schools. None of the questions were multiple-choice. According to the results, as stated, a majority of the students lack knowledge in a number of subjects. It might be a little hard to believe, but only 30% of the students were able to write the first four lines of "Hatikvah precisely." Around two-thirds of the students questioned didn't know that the U.N. voted to recommend the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states on Nov. 29, 1947; nearly half were unfamiliar with the Green Line, and almost half couldn't name the five books of the Torah. The fewest number of students, just 7%, knew the date of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination (Nov. 4, 1995). In a comparison of the students' level of knowledge to the teachers from the 2015 poll, the teachers generally exhibited better familiarity and knowledge in history and politics. Regarding the national anthem and books of the Torah, for example, more than twice as many teachers as students answered correctly.

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