Czech President Milos Zeman’s proposal to move the Czech Embassy from Tel Aviv
to Jerusalem prompted Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator in the peace talks with
Israel, to send a letter of protest to Prague stating that such a move would
undermine the peace process.
Zeman publicly voiced his views on the
subject at the opening of the annual Days for Israel forum in Hradec Kralove in
East Bohemia last week.
According to the Czech news agency CTK, Erekat
has asked the Arab League and other Arab organizations to call extraordinary
meetings at the ministerial level to support the Palestinian stance.
Czech Republic is going to early elections later this month, and Zeman said that
he will try to persuade the new prime minister and foreign minister to consider
moving the embassy to Jerusalem.
Notwithstanding the political turmoil in
his country, the Czech president arrived in Israel on Sunday at the start of a
four day official visit.
Zeman, who like President Shimon Peres is a
former prime minister and also a socialist, will be given an official welcome
reception by Peres on Monday morning.
Peres will also host a state dinner
in Zeman’s honor on Monday night.
Pilots in Israel’s fledgling Air Force
were trained in the former Czechoslovakia, and when other countries refused to
supply arms to the nascent state, Czechoslovakia reached an agreement with the
Jewish Agency in 1947 to supply military equipment and continued to honor the
agreement following the May 1948 proclamation of the State of
Czechoslovakia was one of the 33 member-countries of the United
Nations that voted in favor of the partition of Palestine in November
It recognized Israel on May 18, 1948, and established diplomatic
relations with Israel in July 1948.
Diplomatic relations were severed in
1967, in the aftermath of the Six Day War, and were restored in February 1990
following Czechoslovakia’s 1989 Velvet Revolution.
The Czechs returned to
their old embassy in Tel Aviv, and after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia into
two separate states, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, each established
diplomatic relations with Israel.
An opportunity to repay the Czechs for
their support when Israel was on its way to statehood and immediately afterward
presented itself in December 2008, when the Czech Air Force, in preparation for
a mission to Afghanistan, was eager to train in desert conditions.
other countries refused to allow the Czechs to use their air space for this
purpose, Israel was happy to oblige.
The Czech Republic had no qualms
about sending Jewish diplomats to represent it in Israel, and in fact sent two
former ambassadors who are Jewish – Daniel Kummerman and Michael
Zeman, who is interested in upgrading bilateral trade and
investment, is accompanied by a trade delegation that includes Czech Deputy
Minister of Trade and Industry Milan Hovorka, who on Monday afternoon will
address the Czech-Israel Business Forum convening at the Manufacturers
Association in Tel Aviv.
The Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade
recently opened an office in Tel Aviv headed by Ramzi Gabai.
the importance that Israel attaches to its relations with the Czech Republic
could be seen during the Foreign Ministry strike in July, when staff members of
the Protocol Department received special permission to plan Zeman’s visit with
the Czech chief of protocol, who specially came to Israel to finalize the
details of the visit and to see how everything related to it would proceed.