Czech PM says his country will back Israel’s right to self-defence
Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala visited Israel on Wednesday to signal his country’s strong support for the Jewish state in its war against Hamas. Amid calls for a humanitarian ceasefire in the Middle East, the Czech head of government said Czechia would stand up for Israel’s right to self-defence at Thursday’s European Council meeting in Brussels.
The visit to Israel by the Czech prime minister was primarily intended as a show of solidarity with the country among mounting pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Europe and calls for a humanitarian ceasefire stemming from growing concerns regarding the situation in the Gaza Strip and Israel’s plans for a ground counteroffensive. The visit took place on the eve of a European Council meeting in Brussels at which the situation in the Middle East and Israel’s right to self-defence are expected to be dominant topics.
Mr. Fiala said he had felt it was important to come to ascertain the situation in person, to state his support and defend the country in the upcoming talks.
“Israel needs support on the international scene so that it is clear it has the right to defend itself by whatever means it has at its disposal. At the European Council meeting in Brussels I want to defend that right and I would like to see that support for Israel and its right to self-defence clearly endorsed by the Council. ”
Following talks with President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Netanyahu, Petr Fiala said he had been deeply shocked by the atrocities committed by Hamas on the civilian population. He said it is essential that Hamas be treated as a terrorist organization, that it be isolated and cut off from funds so that no European money will be used to support terrorism.
“I am convinced that any humanitarian aid going to the Gaza Strip from the EU should be under close scrutiny to make sure that it does not serve terrorists. The Czech Republic is engaged in development cooperation in the West Bank, not the Gaza Strip, and this cooperation is controlled so thoroughly that I can say with certainty it is not being abused for terrorist ends.”
While there is likely to be unanimous support for the idea that humanitarian aid to Gaza should be under strict control, the European Council debate around Israel’s right to self-defence by whatever means it sees appropriate is likely to spark controversy. Countries such as Czechia or Austria consider Israel’s reaction to the Hamas attack legitimate, but others, such as Belgium, Ireland and Spain are increasingly critical of Israel's actions in the Gaza Strip and are calling for a humanitarian ceasefire.
Challenged by reporters to explain the Czech position, Mr. Fiala said that, like with the war in Ukraine, it is important to keep in mind who is the aggressor and who is the victim.
“The country that was attacked, that is defending itself, its very existence and its people is Israel. Israel is also the only functioning democracy in the Middle East and is the key to stability in the region. A secure Israel will help the security of the European Continent. That is our country’s long-term foreign policy stance which remains firm despite changing governments.”