Serbian president tells ‘Post’ he will buy weapons from Israel

Serbian president Aleksandar Vučić announced that his country is planning to open a diplomatic mission and an economic office in Jerusalem.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić speaking at AIPAC 2020 (photo credit: OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT OF SERBIA)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić speaking at AIPAC 2020
WASHINGTON – Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic intends to buy weapons from Israel, he told The Jerusalem Post.
He made the comments during an interview on Sunday at the annual AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington.
In response to questions about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign in Western Europe, Vucic said the Serbian purchase of weapons from Israel will “not be a small delivery.”
His remarks and action can be viewed as a stinging rejoinder to the BDS campaign. Vucic stressed Serbia is “not a fertile ground for antisemitic messages,” but rather BDS is nonexistent there. This is in contrast to a flourishing BDS movement in Western Europe.
“No one has heard of the boycott movement in Serbia,” he said at the gathering of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
During his speech, he announced his country plans on opening a diplomatic mission and an economic office in Jerusalem.
“We’re going to open very soon not only an office of our chamber of commerce but, together with our chamber of commerce, an official state office in Jerusalem with a Serbian official flag alongside our embassy in Tel Aviv,” the president said.
Vucic told the Post his country “will always do our best to align our interests with Israel.”
Vucic is a former ultranationalist who abruptly switched sides to become a leading advocate of closer relations with the European Union, but who still relies on right-wing support in Serbia. He has been castigated for denying the 1999 Racak massacre, in which Kosovo Albanians were killed by Serbian forces, an incident he has called “fabricated.”
The Post asked the president about his country’s voting pattern at the UN where Israel is routinely, according to the Netanyahu administration, targeted with bias. Vucic said in connection with anti-Israel resolutions: “We can always abstain.”
Vucic said it is up to the Palestinians and Israelis to reach a settlement covering their territorial dispute. He “welcomed” US President Donald Trump’s initiative on the matter.
Serbia was the first country that passed legislation permitting restitution of unclaimed Jewish property seized during the Holocaust.
His paternal grandfather was murdered by the Nazi-supported Croatian fascist Ustase during World War II. The Croatian fascists expelled his family, who resettled near Belgrade.
Vucic is well-versed in the dangers of lethal antisemitism and fascism, as well, and he energetically advocated for a memorial for the Staro Sajmiste concentration camp in Belgrade, where Serbs, Jews and Roma were murdered during the Nazis’ occupation of the Balkan country.
“Jews fought neck and neck with the Serbian people” against the fascists and Nazis in World War II, said Vucic.
Vucic initiated a remembrance day for the Jewish victims of the Holocaust in January. A yellow flag, reminiscent of the badges Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust, was flown in Serbia to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day as a “badge of honor,” the country’s president said.
The flag, featuring a Star of David and the word “Jude,” flew alongside the country’s national flag, above the north entrance to Belgrade’s Novi Dvor, the official seat of the president of Serbia. Its design evokes the yellow badges Jews across Europe between 1939 and 1945.
Donna Rachel Edmunds and Reuters contributed to this report.