Prague, Czech Republic – The Czech Republic announced that it will add a diplomatic presence to its Jerusalem office next year, joining a wave of similar decisions to establish embassies and diplomatic offices in the city taken by various countries over the past three months.
The Czech Republic would thus become only the second European Union member-state to open an official diplomatic mission in Jerusalem after Hungary opened a “branch” of its embassy in the Holy City last year. So far, no European countries have embassies there.
“This is an important step that is indicative of the friendship between the two peoples and the recognition of Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the State of Israel and the Jewish people,” Israel’s Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said, speaking with his Czech counterpart, Tomáš Petříček.
“I’d like to give credit where credit is due. We are grateful to Czech President Miloš Zeman and Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček, who were the main driving force behind the project,” reacted the Israeli Ambassador to Prague Daniel Meron to Israeli press.
In a statement, the Czech foreign ministry however specified that the establishment of a diplomatic presence at its Czech House in Jerusalem was not connected to the ongoing peace process in the Middle East.
“This is not about setting up a new embassy,” the statement clarified. Rather, the move is intended to support the work of the country’s embassy in Tel Aviv, to “further strengthen Czech-Israeli relations” and to make Czech officials more accessible to citizens living in Jerusalem.
The international community still largely refuses to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Given the city’s disputed status and sensitivity in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, most countries with embassies in Israel have opened them in its commercial capital of Tel Aviv.
But in 2017, the United States controversially announced they would be moving their embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, thus officially recognizing the Holy City as the capital of Israel. The EU has refused to take such a step, arguing that the two-state solution remains the only path to resolving the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians and that recognizing Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel would derail international negotiations.
Last year, a group of Czech senators urged the government to follow suit and move the Czech Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Miloš Zeman had also previously described the inauguration of the Czech House in Jerusalem as “a precursor to the transfer of the Czech embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem.”
The Czech Republic and Hungary have indeed long been among Israel’s steadiest supporters in the European Union. After the Trump administration announced the US would open its embassy in Jerusalem, several European countries, including the two Central European nations, blocked the EU resolution condemning Washington’s move.