In interview, Czech President Milos Zeman says he fully intends to follow President Trump’s lead and relocate the Czech Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
• President Zeman, “We need real action, not just words….an incompatible culture of hatred is threatening the fundamental values of Judeo-Christian European culture. As I have already mentioned, Israel and its heroism is an inspiration for us.”
By Eldad Beck
The international backlash surrounding U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement earlier this month officially recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital caught Czech President Milos Zeman in the midst of his own domestic tumult: Next month, he will vie for reelection in the country’s presidential election. The veteran politician, 73, has headed the Czech Republic at one of the most unstable periods in the country’s history since the fall of communism.
Zeman, the third president of the Czech Republic since the fall of the communist regime, was the first president to be elected directly by the voting public. But a recent political upheaval in his country puts his reelection into question. And still, amid all the political turmoil, Zeman took the time to vocally support the American president and explicitly declare his intent to relocate the Czech Embassy in Israel from its current location in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, following the American lead. This declaration elicited immediate criticism from the newly elected prime minister – former businessman Andrej Babis.
In an interview with Israel Hayom, Zeman explained that he has already instructed the new Czech government to begin preparing the relocation of the embassy.
“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.
“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, just appointed Czech government to proceed with real action.”
Q: Why is the Czech Republic the only European state to declare its support for the American recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel? Do you know of any other European states that might join the Czech Republic in its support?
“There is an extraordinarily strong link between my country and Israel – a powerful friendship. Czechoslovakia helped Israel in 1948 in the decisive moments, when enemies sought to obliterate the young state. And today, we are grateful that Israel uses its pride and vitality to support us in Europe, where we are confronted with terror and evil.”
Q: Recently, UNESCO once again denied the historical link between Israel and the holy Old City of Jerusalem. Do you agree?
“I fully understand the U.S.’s and Israel’s decision to quit this organization. And I am glad that this year, the Czech MPs unequivocally condemned the anti-Israeli steps taken by UNESCO. They have my full support.”
Q: Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with European Union foreign ministers in Brussels and urged them to “stop spoiling the Palestinians” and start pressing them to accept the existence of a Jewish state in the Middle East. Do you share his opinion, that Europe has indulged the Palestinians?
“The cowardly European Union does everything in its power to ensure that the pro-Palestinian movement gains advantage over the pro-Israeli movement. I support the latter. To prove my point, I would kindly remind you that the European Parliament recently allowed a convicted Palestinian terrorist to deliver a speech on its premises. This lady compared the lives of Palestinians in Gaza to the Holocaust. I haven’t heard such chutzpah in a long, long time.”
Q: Should the EU rethink its Middle East policy?
“All of us in the EU who oppose the anti-Israel stance should put our strengths together to achieve a change in the EU’s policies toward Israel. I will encourage this approach very systematically and patiently on our local political scene as well as in my interviews abroad.”
Q: Are you optimistic about the future of the EU? What are the main challenges facing the EU right now?
“The EU has already experienced many crises and has managed to cope successfully with them all. We are currently facing a major migration crisis associated with terrorism, which forces the EU to take some very specific and effective steps. This is a serious situation in which an incompatible culture of hatred is threatening the fundamental values of Judeo-Christian European culture. As I have already mentioned, Israel and its heroism is an inspiration for us.”
Q: Can the Visegrad group (an alliance of four Central European nations – the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) contribute to changing the EU from within?
“The Visegrad Four, which have the unfortunate past experience with totalitarian regimes, could and should be the real engine of change within the EU. Our position must be consistent. We must not bow to the uncultured evil that is attacking Europe and work to prevent a reprise of what happened before World War II, in the form of the appeasement policy. We must never allow that to happen again. Let’s keep in mind the memorable saying: Never again shall we march like sheep to the slaughter. Never again!”
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