Havel assures Katsav of Czech commitment to Israel

Former Czech president Vaclav Havel, who came to Israel to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Haifa, called on President Moshe Katsav to discuss developments in the region, the upcoming elections in the Czech Republic and the stance taken by the European Union vis- -vis Hamas. Havel was particularly proud of the fact that the EU is boycotting Hamas, and although he is no longer in a position to speak for the government of the Czech Republic, he still has his finger on the political pulse, and was able to assure Katsav on Monday of his country's ongoing commitment to Israel's safety and security and its right to exist. The Czech Republic in its former incarnation as Czechoslovakia played a vital role in Israel's fighting capacity during the War of Independence. Commenting on the fact that he is no longer in office, and perhaps hinting at what awaits Katsav from August 1, 2007, Havel told Katsav: "You can be a president for a term or two, but you are an ex-president for life." Asked by The Jerusalem Post to comment on the fracas on Saturday between former presidential adviser Miroslav Macek and Czech Health Minister David Rath, which started when Macek, who was about to commence a speech at a dentists' convention, stepped away from the microphone, walked across the podium to Rath and slapped him on the back of the head, Havel was quick to deny any connection with either man. "These people were not my advisers - not the man who beat the minister of health and not the minister. They are young and temperamental," he said, distancing himself from the embarrassment which the televised fisticuffs had caused his country. Havel and Katsav will in all likelihood meet again towards the end of June when Katsav is due to pay a state visit to the Czech Republic.