Netanyahu thanks Romanian PM for backing Jerusalem embassy move

PM meets with Viorica Dancila, who supports moving her country’s mission to Israeli capital despite opposition of Romania’s president

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meets with his Romanian counterpart Viorica Dancila at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on April 25, 2018. (Haim Zach/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meets with his Romanian counterpart Viorica Dancila at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on April 25, 2018. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday thanked his visiting counterpart from Romania for her government’s stand on possibly moving Romania’s embassy to Jerusalem.

Netanyahu met with Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila, who is on a two-day visit. A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office welcomed the “Romanian government’s approval of a draft decision on initiating the transfer of the Romanian Embassy to Jerusalem.”

The PMO said the two “discussed bilateral issues, strengthening cooperation and the holding of joint projects in — inter alia — security, health, technology and cyber defense.”

Dancila and Netanyahu also agreed to hold a meeting between Israeli and Romanian ministers in Romania “in the coming months,” it added.

Dancila visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum after meeting Netanyahu. She is scheduled to meet with President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday and visit the Western Wall.

Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila (L) lays a wreath at the Hall of Remembrance on April 25, 2018, during her visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem. (AFP Photo/Gali Tibbon)

Earlier this month, Liviu Dragnea of the Social Democratic Party, which effectively runs Romania’s government, said Bucharest is ready to follow the US and move its embassy to Jerusalem.

According to Romanian media, Netanyahu has invited Dragnea to visit Israel “toward the end of the month” and welcomed his stance on the embassy question.

However, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, who is from the center-right and has frequently clashed with the government, protested that he had not been informed and emphasized that any such move could only happen after Israel and the Palestinians had agreed on the status of Jerusalem among themselves.

Caught in the middle of the argument between the two men, Dancila has sought to explain that her government was trying simply to create a “platform for discussions” on the possible transfer of the embassy.

Dragnea was not able to take up the post of prime minister after his party won polls in 2016 due to a conviction for electoral fraud. But he is still seen as having a key role in government affairs.

Dragnea “is looking for recognition on an international level and to present himself as a privileged interlocutor with Israel and the US within Romania,” political analyst Radu Magdin told AFP.

Dragnea also hopes that “the US will be less critical of the government’s reforms” of the judiciary, according to Magdin.

The EU has criticized the Romanian government’s plans, and opponents say they will weaken judicial independence.

Benjamin Netanyahu (R) holds a joint press conference with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis in Jerusalem on March 7, 2016. Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)

Romania was the only country in the former communist bloc to maintain relations with Israel after the Six Day War in 1967.

Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu also maintained close ties with the Palestinian Liberation Organization under Yasser Arafat.

Romania abstained on a United Nations General Assembly Resolution that condemned the US administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move its embassy there.

The Romanian Foreign Ministry said the resolution — which was adopted with 128 “yes” votes, 9 “no” votes and 35 abstentions — “comes at a time when caution should be exercised.”

In a press release, the ministry said it was “rather necessary, at this stage, to re-launch the direct dialogue in order to unlock the peace process. Consequently, Romania has voted to ‘abstain’ within the UNGA.”

At the time, Netanyahu called Iohannis to thank him for the abstention.

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