Israel, Romania to hold joint cabinet meeting

In advance of the meeting, diplomatic officials in Jerusalem describe Romania as “among Israel’s best friends in Eastern Europe.”

Romanian PM at Cotel_311 (photo credit: Jeremy Sharon)
Romanian PM at Cotel_311
(photo credit: Jeremy Sharon)
Romanian Prime Minister Emil Boc arrived on Wednesday night with nine of his cabinet ministers for a government-to-government meeting with the Israeli cabinet reflecting flourishing political, security and economic ties between Jerusalem and Bucharest.
In advance of the meeting, diplomatic officials in Jerusalem described Romania as “among Israel’s best friends in Eastern Europe,” and a country that places a great deal of importance on its ties with Israel.
For instance, the officials said, Israel is described on the Romanian Foreign Ministry website as Romania’s “principle partner in the Middle East.”
The country’s president, meanwhile, has been quoted as saying that his country is “one of Israel closest friends.”
According to officials in Jerusalem, this support is wall-to-wall in Romania, and includes members both of the coalition and the opposition.
Boc, before the Palestinian statehood gambit at the UN in September, told both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres that Bucharest supports Israel’s position that “peace will be achieved only through direct negotiations, without preconditions.”
Nevertheless, in the UNESCO vote earlier this month on whether to admit “Palestine” as a member, Romania was one of 52 countries that abstained, rather than voting no along with 14 other nations. A total of 107 countries voted for the measure.
Diplomatic officials pointed out that Israel has had continuous diplomatic ties with Romania since the establishment of the state, and it was the only Communist bloc country not to break off ties. Once the Iron Curtain fell, Romania – turning its orientation westward – tightened its ties considerably with Israel.
Part of the connection between the two countries is historical, with a Jewish community in Romania from the 15th century. In 1930, the Jewish community in Romania numbered some 800,000 people, or 4.5 percent of the population.
By the end of the Holocaust that number was cut in half to 400,000; the vast majority of that remnant immigrated to Israel in various waves up to the 1980s. Today, Romanian Jews make up the second largest Jewish ethnic community in the country, following that of Jews from the former Soviet Union.
According to diplomatic officials, this “human” connection helped explain the close ties between the country, as most of Romania’s leading politicians have ties with Jews who immigrated to Israel.
The officials said that Israel and Romania have strong security ties manifest in close intelligence and army cooperation, as well as in arms deals. This cooperation became public in the summer of 2010 when an IDF helicopter training in Romania crashed, killing one Romanian soldier and six Israeli airmen.
Regarding economic ties, Israelis – according to diplomatic officials – have some $3 billion invested in the country, and there are approximately 5,800 Israeli companies doing business in Romania, with Israel rated eighth on the list of countries with companies doing business there. Mutual trade in 2010 reached $428 million, up considerably from the $260m. in mutual trade the year before.
Last year also saw a sizable increase in the number of Israeli tourists going to Romania, with 80,000 visiting the country, a 30 percent increase from the year before. That same year, some 40,000 Romanians visited Israel.