Czechs appoint new honorary consul in Jerusalem instead of moving embassy

Czechs appoint new honorary consul in Jerusalem instead of moving embassy

Dan Propper, chairman of one of Israel’s largest food manufacturers, says he has been offered the position

Israeli businessman Dan Propper attends a session of the Knesset's Finance Committee on December 25, 2012. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Israeli businessman Dan Propper attends a session of the Knesset's Finance Committee on December 25, 2012. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

After announcing it will appoint an honorary consul in Jerusalem instead of moving its embassy, the Czech Republic has tapped the chairman of one of Israel’s largest food manufacturers to serve in the position.

Dan Propper, the chair of Osem’s board of directors, confirmed to the Haaretz daily on Wednesday he was offered the position and is now waiting to be officially appointed.

Propper, who is of Czech heritage and lives in the affluent Tel Aviv suburb of Kfar Shmaryahu, will not, however, move to Jerusalem when taking up the position, according to Haaretz.

The position of honorary consul of the Czech Republic in Jerusalem was previously filled by Czech-born Israeli journalist Tatiana Hoffman, who died in November 2016.

The Haaretz report came after Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said Friday that although his country is unlikely to follow the US and move its embassy to Jerusalem, is still interested in boosting its presence in the city and will appoint a new honorary consulate in Jerusalem in the next few months.

In this file photo from April 12, 2018, Czech Republic’s acting Prime Minister Andrej Babis speaks during a news conference at the government’s headquarters in Prague, Czech Republic. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Babis also said that the government was considering opening a Czech cultural center in the city during a planned visit to Israel by its president, Milos Zeman, at the end of 2018, Radio Prague reported.

According to the Radio Prague report, Babis does not want to break with the EU position, which holds that the issue of Jerusalem needs to first be resolved in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Babis believed that opening a Czech center would not violate those principles, the radio report said.

Israel had been hopeful that the Czechs would follow US President Donald Trump and several other nations that have promised to move their missions. In March an Israeli Foreign Ministry cable reportedly said that they had begun examining the practical implications of moving the embassy to Jerusalem.

In a classified cable written to the Foreign Ministry, Israel’s Ambassador to Prague Daniel Meron credited Jerusalem’s diplomatic efforts for developments on the issue in the Czech Republic, which “has begun a quiet internal staff evaluation to examine the possibilities and risks regarding the transfer of its embassy.”

Meron wrote that Israeli pressure following decisions from the US and Guatemala to move their respective embassies to Jerusalem made the Czech Republic more open to following suit.

However, the decision will ultimately be made by Babis, who is seen as particularly risk averse.

Czech President Milos Zeman visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem on October 7, 2013. (Isaac Harari/Flash90)

“At the same time, the prime minister is very influenced by public opinion, which is well-known to be pro-Israel,” Meron wrote, adding that it was crucial for Jerusalem to continue its public outreach in Prague to cement that support.

The ambassador argued that Israel ought to utilize Zeman, who has been a vocal supporter of the Jewish state and has recently advocated for the embassy move.

On December 6, Trump bucked decades of US foreign policy by formally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and setting in motion plans to move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv. In February the US administration announced that it would open its Jerusalem embassy in May 2018 to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence.

After Trump’s announcement, the Czech foreign ministry said it recognizes pre-1967 West Jerusalem as the country’s capital, while noting the city should be a shared capital with the Palestinians.

“The ministry can start considering moving of the Czech embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem only based on results of negotiations with key partners in the region and in the world,” it said at the time.

Trump’s decision to move his country’s embassy, welcomed by Israel, has been condemned by leaders and foreign ministers across the world, who have said the city’s status should be determined through negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

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