Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) shakes hands with Romanian President of the Chamber of Deputies Liviu Dragnea (L) during the latter's visit to Jerusalem, April 26th, 2018..
(photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said he wondered “what secret deals” President of the Chamber of Deputies Liviu Dragnea was “making with the Jews” during his visit to Israel on Thursday.
“The visit that the premier [Viorica Dancila] is paying to Israel, and apparently the Chamber of Deputies speaker as well, is quite strange. They have never come for talks, Mrs. Prime Minister left with no mandate out there, so she has just spoken on behalf and for the government, not for Romania,” The Romania Journal quoted Iohannis as saying.
Iohannis also voiced concern at the “secrecy” of the visit and said he hoped Dragnea would “have the common sense” to explain the content of his visit to Romanians upon his return.
Dragnea said the comments were offensive and contained “a certain dose of antisemitism.”
Iohannis later issued a statement saying that “it is ridiculous to be accused of antisemitism while he was decorated and awarded by Jewish associations.”
The Center for Monitoring and Combating Antisemitism, MCA Romania, making clear its “dismay at the expression ‘... secret agreements with the Jews’ used by the president of Romania when speaking against the relocation of the Romanian Embassy to Jerusalem and against Mr. Dragnea’s visit in Israel.
“Bringing Israel into the middle of a local political dispute is wrong and helps to feed antisemitism and the anti-Israel movements. MCA Romania is calling on all involved parties to exercise caution on such sensitive matters,” the group added.
The president has vocally opposed moving the Romanian Embassy to Jerusalem, while government leaders are pushing for its relocation.
Dancila and Dragnea met with President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, and said that the Romanian government would like to see the embassy move to Jerusalem but lamented that the president opposes such a move.
On Friday, Iohannis called for Dancila’s resignation as she declined to attend a meeting at his official residence, Cotroceni Palace, which the president said was due to focus on the conflict between the government and the central bank.
“I hope that the political situation that unfortunately developed around the embassy move issue and which affects all of us in Romania will not generate antisemitic reactions,” Maximillian Marco Katz, founding director of MCA Romania told The Jerusalem Post.
Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the chairman of the European Jewish Association, also expressed concern over the Romanian president’s remarks.
“Regardless of established protocols and the president’s evident displeasure that they were not adhered to, I would urge restraint and caution when it comes to heads of state using language such as this,” Margolin said, in a statement from Brussels.
“In the media heat of the moment, finding the correct words is not always easy, and we are prepared to give the president the benefit of the doubt on this occasion. But using such language, loaded as it is with connotation and sinister undertone, can be seized upon by unsavory elements in society, and naturally sets off alarm bells amongst the Jewish community.”