Israel's deputy FM sends congratulations on start of process

Romania begins process for possible move of its embassy to Jerusalem

If country’s cabinet and president take PM Dăncilă’s lead, Romania could become first EU state to follow US and Guatemala in moving embassy

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Romania may become the first European Union member state to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Officials in Bucharest said Thursday that the government has taken steps to advance the relocation, but the move needs to be formally confirmed by the Romanian cabinet. Sources in Jerusalem assess that there is a good chance that Romania may vote in favor of the move.

On Thursday evening the head of the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD), Liviu Dragnea, told the Antena 3 TV channel: “The decision has been taken… procedures [for the move] have started.”

Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă, a Social Democrat, backed the move and while many other members of the ruling party appear in favor of relocating the Embassy, the final say on the matter lies with President Klaus Iohannis, a right-leaning independent.

Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, who met with Dăncilă and other top Romanian officials in Bucharest last week to push for the Embassy relocation, seemed optimistic.

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

“I congratulate the speaker of the Romanian parliament on his announcement today to the media according to which Romania will commence the process of moving the Romanian embassy to Jerusalem,” she wrote on her Twitter account last Thursday. “This was the spirit of our meeting last week in Bucharest, and I hope to see the Romanian Embassy in Jerusalem soon.”

Next week, Hotovely is due in the Czech Republic, which reportedly is considering to move the Embassy as well.

Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry on Thursday evening did not comment on Romania’s move.

Earlier on Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that at least six countries are “seriously” discussing with Israel relocating their embassies to Jerusalem.

So far, the US and Guatemala are the only two countries that have formally announced the move.

“Recognizing reality is the way you build peace. You cannot build peace on a foundation of lies because it crashes on the rocks of reality. It’s important to establish those principles that will ultimately guide peace: that Israel has a capital, that the Jewish people have had a capital for 3,000 years and that it’s called Jerusalem – is uncontestable. It’s time to recognize that fact,” Netanyahu said at at reception for the diplomatic corps at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin (C) meet foreign diplomats at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on Israel’s 70th Independence Day on April 19, 2018. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

“I’ve decided that the first ten embassies to come here will get preferential treatment,” told the diplomats. “We’ll help you! All of you should do that.”

Romania abstained on a United Nations General Assembly Resolution that condemned the US administration’s December 6 decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the Embassy to the city.

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 President Iohannis to thank him for the abstention.

AFP contributed to this report.

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