In recent weeks, a number of commentators have urged Israel to recognize the
independence of Kosovo, the renegade province which has been seeking to break
away from Serbia.
Marshaling arguments ranging from history to human
rights, proponents of such a move have sought to make the case that it is in the
Jewish state’s national interest to join the nearly 100 other countries that
have already done so.
Nothing could be further from the
Since Kosovo’s parliament unilaterally declared it was seceding
from Serbia on February 17, 2008, Israel has stood firm in its principled
refusal to back the dangerous gambit of the Kosovars, and there is no good
reason for this to change.
Indeed, bilateral ties between Belgrade and
Jerusalem have grown increasingly close in recent years, building on more than
seven centuries of close and intimate relations between Serbs and Jews. This was
evident during Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic’s visit to Israel at the end
of April, when he held a series of warm meetings with President Shimon Peres and
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
On the tourism and commercial front,
the situation has also improved. Since the abolition of visa restrictions
between the two countries in September 2009, the number of Serbian tourists
visiting Israel has more than tripled. And Israeli firms have invested over a
billion euros in a variety of fields ranging from real estate to
If Israel were to recognize Kosovo, it would set back our
relations with Serbia and deal a major blow to this important
Given the fact that Serbia is likely to join the European
Union within a decade, and that it sits at the crossroads between East and West,
our national interest dictates that we cultivate ties with Belgrade rather than
complicate them by embracing Kosovo.
Moreover, in light of the
encouraging progress that has been made of late in talks between Belgrade and
Pristina, it would be foolhardy for Israel to interfere with the delicate
negotiating process by recognizing Kosovar independence.
Just over two
months ago, Belgrade and Pristina reached an agreement – the first of its kind -
under which the two sides agreed not to block each others’ efforts to seek EU
And on Thursday of last week, Kosovar leader Hashim Thaci met
with Serbian premier Ivica Dacic in Brussels for further talks. This prompted EU
foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to announce that concrete steps had been
taken by the two sides “towards a visible and sustainable improvement of
After so many years of conflict, Serbs and Kosovars are
conducting direct negotiations. If Israel and other countries were to recognize
Kosovo now, it could inflame tensions and damage the fragile prospects for
further reconciliation. The status of Kosovo can best be resolved by the parties
themselves, without international interference.
And then, of course,
there is the question of historical justice, of right and wrong.
is to Serbs what Judea and Samaria are to Jews: the cradle of the nation, the
place where it all began.
Over 800 years ago, Kosovo was the heartland of
Serbia, and it served as its spiritual and administrative epicenter until the
fateful Battle of Kosovo Polje in 1389, when the Ottoman Turks vanquished the
Serbs and their allies.
Eventually, migrants from Albania displaced the
Serbian residents of the area, and they now constitute the majority of Kosovo’s
population. But the province’s territory is dotted with ancient Serbian
churches, monasteries and monuments. For Serbs to give away Kosovo is akin to
carving out a piece of their heritage and their collective soul.
recognition of Kosovo would only serve to set a dangerous precedent, one that
could easily be turned around and used against us.
After all, if Kosovars
can unilaterally split apart Serbia to create their own country, why can’t
Palestinians in Judea or Israeli Arabs in the Galilee do the same? Hence, it is
most definitely not a wise move for the Jewish state to confer legitimacy on
Finally, at a time of rising Islamic extremism around the globe,
including in the incendiary Balkans, is it really in the interests of Israel and
the West for yet another majority-Muslim state to arise on southern Europe’s
flank? Reports in recent years have indicated that radical Wahabis as well as
the Iranians have been looking to gain a stronghold in Kosovo, which is over
three-quarters Muslim. An independent Kosovo under the sway of Middle Eastern
extremists will only increase the risk of further Balkan instability down the
Serbia is an important friend of Israel and it has made enormous
strides over the past decade, building a vibrant democracy and opening itself to
These steps should not now be repaid by forcing Serbs to accept
the unjust breakup of their country.
Thus far, most Asian, African and
South American nations have steadfastly refused to recognize an independent
Despite what the critics might say, so too should Israel.
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