Czech President Arrives in Israel to Inaugurate Cultural Center in Jerusalem

Milos Zeman is expected to reiterate his pledge to move his country's embassy to Jerusalem, but the authority to green-light such a move is in the hands of the Czech government, which has supported the opening of the center as a compromise

Czech President Milos Zeman lands in Israel, November 25, 2018.
Amos Ben Gershom/GPO

Czech President Milos Zeman arrived in Israel on Sunday for an official visit, during which he is expected to inaugurate the new "Czech House" cultural center in Jerusalem alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

The Czech president is also slated to speak before the Knesset on Monday, where he is expected to reiterate his promise to move his country's embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem  – though the decision is not entirely under his authority.

The inauguration of the center, scheduled for Tuesday, will be held in honor of the Czech Republic's national day. Zeman will leave Israel on Wednesday.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said in April that his country's embassy in Israel will not move to Jerusalem, because such a move would contradict the official position of the European Union and the United Nations concerning Jerusalem's status as Israel's capital.

The Czech premier's statement came after Zeman said that Netanyahu promised him his own house in Jerusalem if the Czech Republic moves its embassy. "He told me if you do so I'll give you my own house," Zeman said. "I said that the Czech Republic is not such a rich country in order to refuse such a nice proposal I hope he will fulfil his promise."

The final decision is in the hands of the government, which appointed a Czech-Israeli businessman to the honorary counsul in Jerusalem and moved the cultural center to Jerusalem as a compromise.

The elected consul, Dan Propper, is the chairman of Israeli food conglomerate Osem Investments. Propper, an Israeli businessman of Czech background, has accepted the offer and is currently waiting to start manning the position once the official process gets underway.

The Czech Republic has already had an honorary consul in the Israeli capital—the late journalist Tatiana Hoffman—but since she passed away, the position has not been filled.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded at the time to the Czech president's statement, saying: "I congratulate my good friend, Czech President Milos Zeman, over his important decision to move the Czech embassy to Jerusalem, and I hope that the move will be carried out quickly. I expect to host him here with all the respect he is due."