The Western Wall is part of Israel, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s (BiH) Parliamentary House of Peoples Speaker Dragan Covic said after his visit to Jerusalem’s Old City.
The tall diplomat stood before the Wall on Wednesday, wearing a white skullcap, and placed a prayer for peace between its ancient stones.
He was accompanied by a Foreign Ministry official, a nod toward accepting Israeli sovereignty over Judaism’s most significant holy site, second only to the adjacent Temple Mount.
“I felt humble and small standing there.”Speaker Dragan Covic
When asked if he held that he was in Israel when he was at the Western Wall, Covic said he did.
“Today I am in Israel,” he said of his time in Jerusalem and the Old City. The bulk of the international community does not believe that Jerusalem, even the western part, is part of sovereign Israel. They all hold that east Jerusalem, including the Old City where the Western Wall is located, is part of the Palestinian territories, designed for inclusion within the final borders of a Palestinian state.
Covic is part of a small but growing number of officials who are pushing the envelope when it comes to the status of Jerusalem.
He said he had placed a note in the crevice of the wall with a prayer for peace. “I asked for peace for my people, peace for your people, for the world.”
The tricky situation of Bosnia and Herzegovina
THE HOUSE speaker comes from a country that is half Muslim and half Christian, with deep ethnic divisions between Bosnians, Serbs and Croats, the latter of which he represents. The country remains in political turmoil and still bears the scars of the four-year war that followed its creation in 1992.
That division has led to a fractured foreign policy, particularly with regard to Israel. BiH immediately recognized Palestine as a state and forged ties with Israel in 1992, opening an embassy in Tel Aviv in 1997.
Last year, Bosnian officials spoke out against Israeli actions during the Gaza war.
As he sat in the business suite of the Inbal Jerusalem Hotel, Covic explained that his country’s foreign policy was divided on the subject of Israel. Many Bosnians feel connected to the Palestinians, he said, adding that it would be “hard to make a decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem.” But he said that he would support opening an economic office in Jerusalem.
Covic’s visit to Israel this week is seen as part of a trend of growing support for the Jewish state among BiH officials, particularly with respect to encouraging business and tourist ties.
Such tourism would be helped by direct flights, Covic said. His country is also looking to Israel to help increase its output in aluminum production, which is used for the automotive industry.
It is also interested in Israeli cybersecurity and agriculture technology, particularly drip irrigation.
“We would like to connect our universities."Speaker Dragan Covic
BiH's Jewish community
BiH could even become an important hub for the export of kosher meat to Israel, he said, even though it has a very small Jewish community of only about 1,000 people.
The small community of Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews had numbered some 15,000 people prior to World War II and dated back to the time of the Spanish Inquisition.
The community would be much larger were it not for the war, Covic said.
He explained that he wants to see the revival of the Jewish community and help restore the property it lost during the war. He told Israeli officials that he plans to take action on streets in his country that are still named for Nazi collaborators.
It was a pledge the House speaker made in a speech he delivered Tuesday during his visit to Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center.
“It is our duty in Mostar and other places, where Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina live, to abolish the names of public street and squares that bear burdensome names for the relations between the Croat and Jewish people.”Speaker Dagan Covic
Covic told The Jerusalem Post that he is also involved helping to renovate the Mostar Synagogue. It was built in 1904, demolished during WWII and has been used as a puppet theater.
“I feel very connected with the people of Israel. That is why we want to make our cooperation even stronger,” he said.
The destruction of the country’s Jewish community has cast a long shadow. To ensure that hatred was not transmitted to the younger generations, he wants to see the parliament adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism.
It’s not enough to go to Auschwitz or to come to Jerusalem to visit Yad Vashem, he said. The museum made a strong impression on him and strengthened his resolve to help the country’s Jews.
He wrote in the museum’s guest book that on behalf of the people of BiH, “I’m asking for forgiveness with the deepest respect for the six million Jews systematically murdered in the Holocaust.”
Covic repeated the apology in his speech at Yad Vashem and pledged to work to ensure that another Holocaust will never take place.
“‘Never again’ must be a promise that we will fulfill together, and the first step in that direction is eradicating antisemitism that was the seed of the Holocaust,” Covic said. “This seed of evil must never sprout again and that is why we must responsibly work to suppress ignorance and hatred.”