Czech President Milos Zeman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the inauguration of the Czech House in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: PMO)
Czech President Milos Zeman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inaugurated a Czech House just outside the Old City walls in Jerusalem on Tuesday, with both saying they hoped it was a precursor to moving the Czech Republic’s embassy to the capital.
“In near future, I firmly believe – and deep in my heart I do believe – we shall overcome, there will be not only the embassy, but also a nice Czech tavern with good Czech beer,” Zeman said at the ceremony at the Cinematheque building in Jerusalem.
“I firmly believe that my fourth visit to Israel will be the opening of the Czech Embassy,
” he continued.
Since he arrived on Sunday, Zeman – whom Netanyahu referred to as an “unsurpassed friend” of the Jewish state – made clear that he would like to move the embassy, but was being constrained by the Czech government.
The Czech government – Zeman is head of state with limited powers, not the head of the government – is wary of walking out of step with the EU on this issue, and the EU has come out adamantly against moving embassies to Jerusalem.
Ambassador David Friedman – whose country moved its embassy to Jerusalem in May – attended the ceremony and tweeted that he was “looking forward to the Czech Embassy opening here in the near future!”
So far only Guatemala has followed the United States’ lead. Paraguay also moved its embassy soon after the US move, but then moved it back to Tel Aviv a few months later.
Netanyahu, comparing Israel’s relationship with the Czech Republic to Israel’s relationship with the US, said that Israel has “no greater friend in the eastern hemisphere,” and there is a “close race” between the two hemispheres.
Netanyahu said that while Israel has “flourishing relations” with more and more countries in the world – he noted the new relations with Chad – those relations, “as is the nature of international alliances, are based on a commonality of interests: interests for something, interests against something, and very often both.”
But with the Czech Republic, as with the US, Netanyahu said “there is something else, it is a deep, deep commonality of values.”
No one in Europe “understands so readily and immediately the situation of Israel and the challenge of Israel,” Netanyahu said.
The Czech House will serve as quarters for the Czech cultural, investment, trade and tourism offices, and the Czech ambassador is expected to work from there occasionally when he is in Jerusalem.
Zeman, who arrived in Israel on Sunday, is scheduled to fly back to Prague on Wednesday.
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