Having just been sworn in for his second term, and with a history of refusing to fall in line with EU policy, President Milos Zeman instructed officials to explore the logistical aspects involved in pushing the move forward.
By Eldad Beck
Czech President Milos Zeman on Thursday doubled down on his intent to see his country’s embassy in Israel relocate from Tel Aviv Jerusalem, saying he plans to push the move through.
Zeman was sworn in for a second term as president of the Czech Republic on Thursday. While the post is largely ceremonial, the president does have some leverage on strategic matters.
According to Czech media, Zeman intends to expedite the embassy’s relocation process and has tasked a team, headed by his office’s chief for foreign policy, to discuss the various logistics and operational aspects of the move.
According to the Czech daily Lidove Noviny, the fact that the country does not own any large properties in Jerusalem could hamper the move. Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis’ objection to the move could further hinder the relocation.
In December, shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump announced his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. embassy there, Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales and Zeman said they would follow suit.
Later that month, Zeman told Israel Hayom that he has already instructed the new Czech government to begin preparing for the relocation.
“It was my pleasure to publicly support the decision of U.S. President Donald Trump, who acknowledged Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and ordered the launch of necessary steps to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv,” Zeman said in the interview.
“Nobody can accuse me of having an ulterior motive. In 2013, during my visit to Israel, I already spoke in favor of relocating the Czech Embassy to Jerusalem. And again, this September in New York, while receiving the Warrior for Truth prize [awarded by Jewish American newspaper The Algemeiner], I mentioned that we need a candle in the dark. We need real action, not just words and words and words. And the act of relocating the embassies of democratic countries from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem could be such an action. I can promise you that I will appeal to the new … Czech government to proceed with real action.”
The EU has refused to recognize the sovereignty of Israel or the Palestinian Authority in Jerusalem, expressing its support for the city becoming a shared capital as part of a peace deal negotiated by the parties.
France and Germany have managed to keep this the official EU policy even after Trump’s decision, but they have been unsuccessful at imposing this view on all 28 member states. The Czech Republic and other eastern European countries have refused to fall in line and voted against a U.N. General Assembly resolution that criticized Trump’s decision.
The Czech Republic would be the first European country to move its embassy to Jerusalem. Although some Latin American countries had an embassy in Jerusalem in Israel’s first decades, they moved to central Israel in the late 1980s. In the wake of Trumps’ decision, the U.S. has decided to open an interim embassy in the city in May. Guatemala is expected to open its own embassy in the city around the same time.
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