“It would be huge show of support for Israel”: Will Czechs move embassy to Jerusalem?
Following the Hamas attack on Israel, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala says moving his country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is now a “desirable step”. This would break with previous policy of following the EU line – and Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský says key criteria have not been met. I discussed the matter with Czech Television’s former Middle East correspondent Jakub Szántó.
Almost all countries have their embassies in Tel Aviv. What is the significance of the idea of moving the Czech Embassy to Jerusalem?
“Well, it certainly would be a huge show of support for Israel, especially in these very, very troubled and tragic times, and I think it would be very much appreciated by the government in Jerusalem.
“However, the problem with moving, en masse, European or other embassies at the same time from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would be a problem for the Jerusalem municipality, because, simply put, there is no diplomatic quarter, unlike in Tel Aviv.
“Already the moving of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was a little bit of a headache, logistics-wise but also security-wise.
“If that happened, it would be hard to find enough buildings that would be good enough for embassies, the Czech Embassy included.
“That is why the Czech Embassy in Tel Aviv is renting an office in a commercial space, right in front of the world famous King David Hotel [in Jerusalem].
“And that is sort of to show support, without moving the entire venue, because even the Czech Republic’s embassy in Tel Aviv is pretty big.”
How likely is it, do you think, that the Czechs would actually move to Jerusalem?
“There are many obstacles. First of all, the building that the Czech Republic owns in Tel Aviv, in a pretty nice, leafy neighbourhood would have to be sold or rented, and something else would have to be found in Jerusalem.
“Now, the capital of Israel is a very congested place, so everything is very expensive and trying to find something good enough for a diplomatic representation might be complicated.
“There is a place that used to be a would-be embassy in the ‘30s, but it is no longer owned by the Czech state.
“I think moving the offices, and also finding places to live for a good many people working for the Embassy would be a logistics headache.
“So I really don’t see that happening any time soon. But on the other hand, of course, everything is a question of political will, and if the Czech government decides so, it may be quicker than we think.”
But should we take what Petr Fiala has said mainly as a gesture? Not a policy idea but more, like I say, a simple gesture of support?
“I think it’s really being considered, it is a topic. There is a Friends of Israel block within the Czech Parliament, in both houses. I think it’s pretty influential.
“I think the current government has overwhelming support in that, and I think also when it comes to the Czech opposition – democratic and less democratic – are also supportive of the idea, so I think there is an overwhelming political will to do so.
“The question is whether this is the right time, which it may be, and whether there will be a moment to say, OK, now let’s move the Embassy to Jerusalem. Then everything will start moving.”