PM Fischer visits Israel

Jan Fischer at the Western Wall, photo: CTK

The Czech prime minister, Jan Fischer, is in Israel for a three-day working visit. After meeting the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, in Jerusalem on Wednesday, he’s set to meet for talks with his counterpart, Prime Minister Netanyahu. Czech Radio’s Middle East correspondent Břetislav Tureček, is following the visit in Jerusalem. Radio Prague asked him what the main points on the Czech Prime Minister’s agenda were.

Jan Fischer at the Western Wall,  photo: CTK
“As the prime minister put it, he has come to support bilateral relations with Israel; that means he is not going to talk so much about the Middle East peace process. This morning, he already met Israeli President Shimon Peres and they both said there was a lot of space for mutual cooperation and better relations, but what was interesting, none of them said anything about the peace process or about politics in the presence of reporters.”

On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu rejected a US bid to stop construction in East Jerusalem. Is Mr Fischer going to express his views on this issue?

“On his way to Israel on Tuesday, Prime Minister Fischer said that he was not going to raise this issue with his Israeli hosts, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu or President Perez, on his own. Mr Fischer said this was a very a difficult matter – all the problems related to Jerusalem and all the settlements and so on, and that it was up to both sides in this conflict to solve them. So he’s not going to follow suit with the EU or the US, as you mentioned, which are going to push for Israel to stop settlement activities that are regarded as a breach of international law.”

Jan Fischer with Shmuel Rabinowitz  (left),  photo: CTK
Mr Fischer left out Palestine from his travel plans. Do you know why he decided not to visit the West Bank or the Gaza strip this time?

“Well, I specifically asked the prime minister’s spokesman, Roman Prorok, about this, and he told me that this visit was not a political one. He mentioned that neither the previous Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolánek, visited the Palestinian territories during his first visit to the region or Palestinian officials. That’s why Mr Fischer says he came to see only Israeli officials.”

Prime Minister Fischer has a Jewish background. Does the visit have a strong personal significance for him as well?

“It’s difficult to say because he didn’t talk to the press about it. Yesterday, he visited the Western Wall, the holiest site of Judaism, and he was accompanied by Shmuel Rabinowitz, the chief rabbi of the Western Wall, and it was interesting because rabbi Rabinowitz asked the Czech prime minister, ‘What it’s like to be a Jewish prime minister of a non-Jewish country?’. I could not hear clearly what the prime minister said, what he answered, but it seemed anyway that the Israelis appreciate that he’s a Jewish politician, and he himself, as I saw him yesterday, welcomed the opportunity to pray with Chief Rabbi Rabinowitz at the Western Wall and to see some of the most significant places of the Jewish nation and also of the Jewish faith.”