Czech foreign minister: It’s getting harder to defend Israel because of ‘settlements’

Czech foreign minister Lubomir Zaoralek blamed ‘settlements’ for the reason his country may not want to continue supporting Israel. He did not acknowledge that Israel is more willing than the Palestinians to make peace.

Construction in Jerusalem

Construction in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood in Jerusalem. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Czech Republic is under heat in Europe for its support of Israel, Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek indicated during his visit to Jerusalem this week.

At a press conference at the Prime Minister’s Office on Monday, Zaoralek pointed specifically to Jewish settlement construction, including in eastern Jerusalem, as a problem. He also derided Israel’s policy of supporting Gaza reconstruction as a waste of donor funds.

“If the building of settlements continues on the territories that fall under Palestinian autonomy, and on which no decision has been made that they should belong to Israel…it is actually a direct torpedoing of this process, [namely] the formation of two independent states,” Zaoralek told a Czech news agency.

“As a close friend of yours, it is important for the Czech Republic to say that if the situation does not change it will be hard to maintain our position,” he told Walla news ahead of his meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “We want to avoid initiatives against Israel, but it is getting more difficult with the current government and with the opposition to the two-state solution.”

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Netanyahu came under international fire during the Israeli elections for saying that there would be no Palestinian state under his watch. He later clarified that he meant that he did not anticipate a two-state solution in light of the uncooperative attitude on the part of the Palestinians. Netanyahu complained to Zaoralek that the Palestinians “refuse to negotiate and then try to get boycotts on Israel for there not being negotiations, which they refuse to enter. Catch 22.”

A truck crosses from Israel into Gaza. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

A truck crosses from Israel into Gaza. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Zaoralek conceded, “Maybe I’m naive, but I have a feeling that there is a willingness to move forward on your side. I hope I am not mistaken.”

Zaoralek also paid a visit to Gaza during his trip. He described the Hamas-controlled enclave as “a greenhouse for extremism and terrorism,” adding that “without a comprehensive solution [to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict], investing in rebuilding now is like throwing money into an open pit.”

To achieve an agreement, he said, “requires flexibility on both sides, including for the Palestinians, to find a way to resolve their internal crisis between Fatah and Hamas.”