A Republic of Kosovo is not what the Balkans needs

The dispute over the autonomous region of Kosovo and Metohija should be resolved in compromise, not unilateral action.

Kosovo's President Hashim Thaci, Croatia's Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium February 16, 2020 (photo credit: ARIS OIKONOMOU/POOL VIA REUTERS)
Kosovo's President Hashim Thaci, Croatia's Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium February 16, 2020
One of the two essential rules in Roman law’s concept says: audi alteram partem – let the other side be heard. Having grown up in the Jewish community of Belgrade, I sometimes feel vilified by the unbalanced approach that appears occasionally in the mainstream foreign media or even in Israel, by authors like Akri Çipa (“The new Israeli government should finally recognize Kosovo,” The Jerusalem Post, May 23, 2020). The feeling of being the underdog doesn’t abolish this essential rule, to the contrary, it strengthens it. Çipa’s advocating against Israel’s principled foreign policy, in favor of its recognition of the so-called Republic of Kosovo, is continuously and systematically biased.
It is well known that the Jewish people and their only state, the State of Israel, suffered for decades from manipulative and maliciously hostile reporting, perhaps more than any other nation throughout the world. Consequently, Israelis are expected to identify and be wary of such tailor-made attempts to whomever they may be directed, and indeed they were. The State of Israel is sovereign nation, and its leaders’ evaluations and decisions in all areas, including foreign policy, are made in their best interests.
The Israeli constellation of disputes and, unfortunately, even conflicting relations with some countries – not only in the region – requires the firm opposition to any solution involving coercion and preconditions, therefore establishing damaging precedent that could be used tomorrow against Israel itself.
Regarding the status of the disputed autonomous region of Kosovo and Metohija, Israel supports the straightforward negotiations between Belgrade and Priština, and the solution which should result from compromise. In general, as far as the western Balkan region is concerned, the Jewish state proved to both initiate and be innovative in developing balanced relations and cooperation in all fields, especially in the economy. The continuous and highly principled Israeli stance on the Kosovo and Metohija issue is not only the result of this prudent approach, but also of the affirmation of the policy based on the highest principles in foreign relations and international law.
National interests are not to be challenged by shifting personae in government, which Çipa advocates, not in a systematically functioning and democratic country such as Israel. Similarly to Israel, many other countries in the world, including five EU members – Greece, Cyprus, Romania, Slovakia and Spain – are opposed to the unilateral Albanian secession of the southern Serbian province. Just like Israel, none of these countries could accept a biased and unilateral solution, which creates precedent and violates the international law.
In the past two years, not even a single government has recognized “Kosovo.” On the contrary, 18 countries have withdrawn or suspended their recognition. It clearly demonstrates the problematic issue of the “Kosovo” status, and the declining trend toward the support of the Kosovo Albanian stance. Today, less than half of the UN members have established relations with Priština. Recent votes in various international organizations over “Kosovo“ membership ended devastating for them, even to the extent of taking the step of withdrawing their own applications.
HOW MANY Israelis are willing to accept a disastrous forced solution over the holy city of Jerusalem? Even those who are ready to compromise are determined that concessions should be accomplished in the final stage of direct negotiations between the two sides of the political dispute, thus complying with the very basic juristic principles. Similarly, Kosovo and Metohija is the cradle of Serbian national identity. Its monasteries: Visoki Decani, Pec Patriarchate and Gracanica are among the medieval living guardians of Serbian spiritual, cultural and historical heritage.
By arbitrary allegations Çipa tries to highlight only Kosovo Albanian suffering in 1999 and to demonize Serbia at the same time. He skillfully avoids the atrocities committed by the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army, including human organs trade, which includes more than serious allegations. Much worse, articles, such as this one written by Çipa, which attempt to establish linkage with the Holocaust, try to silence the shameful facts of Kosovo Albanian Ballists’ collaboration with the Axis powers and try to hide it behind the noble behavior of many Albanians in Albania. They omit to mention the atrocities done by the Kosovo Albanian 21st Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Skanderbeg (1st Albanian), the mountain infantry division of the Waffen-SS. Needless to remind esteemed Jerusalem Post readers that those units fought against Yugoslav partisans who were overwhelmingly ethnic Serbs.
The State of Israel welcomed the Serbian compensation law for heirless Jewish property as a model for other countries, and in recent months we witnessed a list of promotive and moving acts by Belgrade: the law on the Memorial Center “Staro sajmište,” a yellow flag bearing the Shield of David flying from the official residence of the President – Novi Dvor, or ‘New Palace’ in Belgrade – the day before the Fifth World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem and that Belgrade’s major bridges, buildings and fountains were colored in Israeli Blau-Weiss (blue and white) in tribute to Israel Independence Day. Above all, the address of the President of the Republic of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee reaffirms the warm relations and mutual understanding between Israel and Serbia.
Israelis are present in numerous fields of the Serbian economy and investments, with encouraging growth trends, with so many described Belgrade as one of the safest and most pleasant destinations of their vacations. If Serbia was the very first state in the world to affirm the Balfour Declaration in writing, via descendant of the glorious Serbian Sephardi community, (Lt.-Col.) David Albala 1886–1942, let Israel persist in being among nations refusing to accept coercion over Belgrade.
The writer is the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Serbia in Israel, and can be contacted at alexn@gaon.com