A political storm erupted Saturday in the Czech Republic over Israel’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank, with both the president and the prime minister denouncing their own foreign minister for criticizing the plan in print.
Czech Republic's Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek co-authored an op-ed with two of his predecessors in which they oppose the plan to annex West Bank settlements with American backing. This is highly unusual for a sitting foreign minister, particularly one in a government considered pro-Israel. According to Czech media reports, President Milos Zeman and Prime Minister Andrej Babis are considering firing Petricek.
On Tuesday, the Czech parliament will hold a debate on a motion on the issue of "Reaffirming our friendship with Israel.”
The op-ed, published in the Pravo daily, says that annexation is forbidden by international law and also raises serious questions about Israel’s future as a democracy.
“Neither the Israelis nor the Americans have as yet clarified what is to happen, in the long run, to the Palestinians in the rest of the occupied territories with no hope for a state,” it said. “And what about Israeli democracy if the state comprises of first and second-class citizens?”
“The Czech Republic and Israel are friends,” the article added. “It is a privilege as well as an essential ingredient of a true friendship when both sides are willing to be honest and ready to listen to each other. In this spirit this article was written.”
The two former foreign ministers who signed it, Lubomir Zaoralek and Karel Schwarzenberg, still serve in other official positions.
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Zeman is known as a staunch supporter of both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Donald Trump. He promised several times to move his country’s embassy to Jerusalem, but so far the Czech Republic has made do with opening a cultural center in the city.