Czech president calls for greater solidarity with Israel in Knesset address

Miloš Zeman in Knesset, photo: ČTK/Vít Šimánek

On a state visit to Israel, Czech President Miloš Zeman on Monday addressed a special session of the country’s parliament, the Knesset – the first Czech politician ever to do so. Mr. Zeman highlighted the special relationship between the two countries and vowed to do everything in his power to ensure that the Czech Embassy be moved to Jerusalem.

Miloš Zeman in Knesset,  photo: ČTK/Vít Šimánek
“Prime Minister Netanjahu said that the Czech Republic is the best friend of Israel in Europe. I wonder why only in Europe?”

President Zeman opened his address to the packed assembly by voicing his special relationship to Israel, which he earlier called his second home, and citing his country’s historic support for the Jewish people. Mr. Zeman made it clear that he would like to see that support go much further – not only from his own country’s government, but from the European Union.

“We Europeans – I do not speak about America - I speak about the EU, are sometimes hesitant. We are sometimes cowards. It is very impolite, isn’t it? But I am afraid it is frank. It is necessary to show solidarity with Israel, because if we betray Israel, we betray ourselves.”

At the end of his address, President Zeman vowed to do his utmost to get the Czech Embassy moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, despite his limited executive power. He said the first step had been the appointment of an honorary consul in Jerusalem, the second, Tuesday’s opening of the Czech House, an office space which will house government institutions, but which will have no official diplomatic status. And finally, the moving of the Czech Embassy itself, which the Czech government has so far resisted on the grounds that the European Union is strongly opposed to the move.

Miloš Zeman,  Reuven Rivlin,  photo: ČTK/Vít Šimánek
“Well, friends, I am no dictator, unfortunately. But I promise I’ll do my best in order to realize the third step, after the honorary consulate and after the Czech House and you can guess what is to be the third step.”

Earlier, in talks with his host President Reuven Rivlin, Mr. Zeman said he was intrigued with his idea of "one-state with two nations," adding that he personally could not envisage an independent state in the Gaza Strip since he perceived Hamas as a terrorist organization. He said President Rivlin’s idea was provocative, but noted that all bold ideas were.

President Rivlin thanked him for the Czech Republic’s friendship and cooperation, noting that in the current situation Czech-Israeli friendship was more important than ever.