Czech President Milos Zeman reiterated on Wednesday his support for moving his country's embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, even though the decision is not his to make. He said that said the move will take place in three steps.
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babi said last week that his country would not break UN and EU policy and would not relocate its embassy to Jerusalem.
Taking the first step, Zeman announced the official appointment of an honorary consul, Israeli businessman Dan Propper, the chairman of Osem Food Industries, as Haaretz reported ealier. Propper is of Czech extraction.
The honorary consulate will be opened in Jerusalem in May, to be followed by other Czech institutions in the city.
Zeman gave no further timetable beyond the opening of the honorary consulate next month, but he did reiterate his promise to transfer the embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
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Zeman said 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."
Zeman does not have the authority by himself to move the embassy and the step requires approval by the government, which has already announced it would not act in opposition to the policy of the European Union – which is not to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
A statement by the Czech Foreign Ministry announced the opening of the consulate and the Czech Cultural center in Jerusalem, but did not mention moving the embassy there.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he hoped they would jointly open the new embassy in Jerusalem at the end of this year.
In a letter to Zeman, Netanyahu thanked his “good friend” for “the important declaration to move the Czech Embassy to Jerusalem and I hope the decision will be carried out quickly.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.