“It is necessary all the time [to stand in] solidarity with Israel. Because if we betray Israel, we betray ourselves,” Czech President Zeman told the Knesset.
President Milos Zeman of the Czech Republic, who arrived with his wife Ivana Zemanova in Israel for a three-day state visit, addressed a special session of the Knesset held in his honor on Monday, during which he conveyed a “message of solidarity with Israel and the Jewish People.”
Talking of the close bonds between the two countries, Zeman quipped that “Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu said the Czech Republic is Israel’s best friend in Europe. I wonder, why only Europe?”
“Anyway, I am the best friend of Israel in my whole country,” he said.
In his speech, he noted the Czechs’ historic support for Israel and the Jewish people.
Recently, “Palestinian terrorists” spoke in the European Parliament, which he said was a disgrace for all Europeans.
Zeman may have been referring to Leila Khaled, a convicted terrorist who was honored by the European Parliament in September 2017 when she spoke on the role of women in the “Palestinian struggle.”
Addressing what he referred to as Islamic terror, the Czech leader said it is important to be decisive in countering the threat, for the sake of Europe as well as Israel.
“We Europeans, and now I do not speak about America, I speak about the EU in fact, sometimes hesitate more. We sometimes are cowards. It is very impolite, isn’t it? But I am afraid it is frank. And that’s why it is necessary all the time [to stand in] solidarity with Israel. Because if we betray Israel, we betray ourselves,” he said.
Zeman will formally open the “Czech House” in Jerusalem on Tuesday. Considered by Prague as a “first step” toward relocating the country’s embassy to Jerusalem, it will deal with Czech-Israel tourism, trade and other areas.
“Although this institution will not have a diplomatic status, Zeman sees it as a precursor to the transfer of the Czech Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” a statement by the Czech parliament said.
Relocating the Czech Embassy to Jerusalem
At the Knesset, Zeman expressed hope that the dedication of the Czech House will lead to the relocation of the embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
“I am no dictator, unfortunately, but I promise I will do my best,” he stated.
Speaking during the session, Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein said that moving the Czech Embassy to Jerusalem would help promote peace in the Middle East. “We will be able to bring about genuine peace only out of insistence on the truth; the historic and moral truth,” he stated.
In late April, Zeman announced a “three-stage” plan to relocate the country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which included the reopening of its honorary consulate in Jerusalem the following month. The honorary consulate was first opened in the early 1990s but closed in 2016 due to the death of the honorary consul.
However, the Czech Foreign Ministry has downplayed Zeman’s intentions regarding the embassy move.
“The Czech Republic fully respects common policy of the European Union, which considers Jerusalem as the future capital of both the State of Israel and the future State of Palestine,” the Czech foreign ministry said following Zeman’s announcement.
In December 2017, Zeman accused the European Union (EU) countries of being cowardly in their response to President Donald Trump’s historic recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“The European Union, cowards, are doing all they can so a pro-Palestinian terrorist movement can have supremacy over a pro-Israeli movement,” Zeman stated.
The Czech Republic recognized western Jerusalem as the capital of Israel following Trump’s policy changes on the city.