Czech president kicks off Jerusalem embassy move in Israel

Zeman will open the “Czech House” in Jerusalem, “a precursor” to the transfer of the Czech Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

By Jack Gold, World Israel News

President Milos Zeman of the Czech Republic, who arrived with his wife Ivana Zemanova in Israel on Sunday for a three-day state visit, will formally open the “Czech House” in Jerusalem on Tuesday.

The “Czech House” is considered by Prague as a “first step” toward relocating the country’s embassy to Jerusalem.

“Although this institution will not have a diplomatic status, Zeman sees it as a precursor to the transfer of the Czech Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” a statement by the Czech parliament said.

The Czech president is a strong proponent of the relocation of his country’s embassy to Jerusalem.

In late April, Zeman announced a “three-stage” plan to relocate the country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which included the reopening of its honorary consulate in Jerusalem the following month. The honorary consulate was first opened in the early 1990s but closed in 2016 due to the death of the honorary consul.

The Czech Foreign Ministry has downplayed Zeman’s intentions regarding the embassy move.

“The Czech Republic fully respects common policy of the European Union, which considers Jerusalem as the future capital of both the State of Israel and the future State of Palestine,” the Czech foreign ministry said following Zeman’s announcement.

Czechs undecided on Jerusalem

In December 2017, Zeman accused the European Union (EU) countries of being cowardly in their response to President Donald Trump’s historic recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“The European Union, cowards, are doing all they can so a pro-Palestinian terrorist movement can have supremacy over a pro-Israeli movement,” Zeman stated.

The Czech leader said he was happy about Trump’s announcement and that he had himself spoken in favor of moving the Czech embassy to Jerusalem during a visit four years ago.

The Czech Republic recognized western Jerusalem as the capital of Israel following Trump’s policy changes on the city.

According to a statement published by the Czech Foreign Ministry, the country “currently, before the peace between Israel and Palestine is signed, recognizes Jerusalem to be in fact the capital of Israel in the borders of the demarcation line from 1967.”

The Czech Republic added that, “together with other EU member states, following the EU Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions,” it “considers Jerusalem to be the future capital of both states, meaning the State of Israel and the future State of Palestine.”

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The Czechs broke ranks with EU members who uphold a policy of not recognizing Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s capital without a final status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Yet the Czech announcement differed from the US policy change in that Prague it conditioned the relocation of its Tel Aviv embassy to Jerusalem on the results of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, while Trump expressed his unconditional intent to move the American embassy.

The Czech government’s move on western Jerusalem follows the Czech Parliament’s approval of legislation in May 2017 that recognizes the city as Israel’s capital.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin will officially welcome his Czech counterpart to his official residence in Jerusalem on Monday.

JNS contributed to this report.