Erekat protests Czech president’s call to move country’s embassy to Jerusalem

Chief PLO negotiator calls for Arab League meeting on topic; sends letter saying move would undermine peace process.

Saeb Erekat 370 (photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
Saeb Erekat 370
(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
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.
The 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 Israel.
Czechoslovakia was one of the 33 member-countries of the United Nations that voted in favor of the partition of Palestine in November 1947.
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.
While 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 Zantovsky.
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.
Evidence of 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.