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Why Czechs were lone EU vote against Palestine
Published Friday 30/11/2012 (updated) 03/12/2012 13:37
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A boy in traditional clothes waves a Palestinian flag during a rally in
Ramallah, Nov. 29. (Reuters/Marko Djurica)
By Michael Winfrey and Robert Muller

PRAGUE (Reuters) - When Czechs cast the lone European "no" vote against the Palestinian Authority's bid for semi-statehood at the United Nations this week, it was no surprise from a country Israel has named as its best friend on the continent.

Once the punchbag for aggressive neighbors before World War Two, the central European state of 10.5 million has long backed Israel and its main ally, the United States.

On Thursday, the Czechs joined Israel, the United States and six other nations in voting against a motion to grant the Palestinian Authority observer status at the United States as a "non-member state". Of the 138 "yes" votes, 14 came from European Union states, while the other 41 abstained.

A main reason is a center-right government that has distanced itself from the European mainstream on issues ranging from diplomacy and security to economic policy, often siding with Washington rather than fellow EU members.

But history also plays a role. Israel can thank the former Czechoslovakia for gaining the upper hand in 1948, when Prague broke a UN embargo to send it weapons, including 80 planes, and train pilots including future Israeli President Ezer Weizman.

"Israel has no better friend in Europe than the Czech Republic", Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu said during a visit to Prague in May of this year.

At the time, his Czech counterpart Petr Necas related Israel's situation to that of former Czechoslovakia, which lost land to Germany, Poland and Hungary on the eve of World War Two.

"We've got a special feeling for Israel's situation - that of a small nation surrounded by enemies," Necas told the Jerusalem Post.

Pundits say the government's pro-Israeli stance could also be a reaction to its trying to undo the legacy of a Czech Communist regime that severed diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv after the 1967 Six-Day War.

The Communists also later supported the Palestinian Liberation Organization when it was in open conflict with Israel, training its operatives and awarding its leader Yasser Arafat the highest state medal.

That ended with the fall of the Iron Curtain, and in 1990, Prague restored diplomatic ties and then Czechoslovak President Vaclav Havel visited Israel on one of his first foreign trips.

Closer to us than EU

During Israel's war on the Gaza Strip this month, the Czech Foreign Ministry joined other European countries calling for an end to the violence.

But it underlined it "fully recognized Israel's right to self-defense against rocket barrages carried out by the military organizations in the Gaza strip", a sentiment absent from statements from the French and British but one closely resembling comments from US officials.

On Thursday, the Foreign Ministry said the Czech Republic voted against the Palestinian motion because it feared it may further delay peace talks and said a two-state solution was only possible via direct negotiations, again echoing the US stance.

Prague's support for Israel also reflects an ongoing push by Czech center-right politicians to build stronger ties with Washington and the euro-skeptic tendency of the two main ruling parties, Necas's Civic Democrats and Top 09.

"There is no common EU position ... I think it will definitely complicate future negotiations," said Civic Democrat lawmaker and presidential candidate Premysl Sobotka.

The opposition Social Democrats take a more mainstream European approach, while, partly staffed by dissidents who opposed the Communists in the Cold War era, the center-right lobbied hard last decade for the establishment of a US radar base and staunchly supported the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The opposition said the UN vote would isolate the Czechs.

"The Social Democrats would never allow such a departure from the balanced policy approach and from European policy," said Lubomir Zaoralek, deputy chairman of the Social Democrats.

"I regard it as a mistake ... It shows the Czech Republic is traveling its own road and does not care about European policy."
1 ) State of palestine / Al Quds
30/11/2012 18:29
They just want money Buying and selling palestinians rights is a booming business Just as greece did , then it got its bailout approved

2 ) Shimon / UK
30/11/2012 18:49
Odd, that a country which was itself occupied in living memory would side with another occupier rather than the victims of occupation. But in supporting Israel it seems to many countries leaders are at odds with the views of their own peoples and their interests.

3 ) Arnold / Canada
30/11/2012 19:17
Why should any one country within the EU constantly have to go along with EU policy. The euro fall out alone proves that point.

4 ) Mel / USA
30/11/2012 19:51
"Israel has no better friend in Europe than the Czech Republic",?That's actually a HUGE insult to Czech people!Like Hitler saying same to Italians(who also HATED him)coz he knew he had "cabbage brain" Il Duce,in his Nazi pocket!We all know Czechoslovakia sent Israel weps against the embargo in 48. But USG(Czech Repub boss now)has given parasite Israel over a TRILLION dollars in US taxes,ILLEGALLY,since then to maintain occupation,Jewish colonization.That's the PRESENT,that we have to END,still!

5 ) mono ethnic/religious states / Espana
30/11/2012 19:52
Czechs, like the Soviet Union and the other countries of eastern Europe at that time, were the staunchest supporters of the colonlisation and ethnic cleansing in Palestine in 1947-1948. But you have to remember European culture had been through a 300 year period of ethnic cleansing and the establishment of mono ethnic/religious states. Most of Europe has, thank goodness, become a lot more tolerant these days. In the future, though, the best support for the racist project may be Russia or China

6 ) Vacy / Australia
30/11/2012 21:33
Shame on a nation that suffered German and Russian occupation and sacrificed its humanity and dignity for some bloody deal with the US & Israel.

7 ) Anne / Canada
30/11/2012 21:43
I have been given to understand that 1948 actions by Czechoslovakia were among the earliest of CIA operations, if not the first.

8 ) Colin Wright / USA
30/11/2012 23:16
That's an illuminating and balanced piece. However, that the Czech Republic has chosen to side with evil should not be condoned.

9 ) carlos / usa
01/12/2012 01:54
My respect for the czech republic is extremely low. I figured a country which has supported israeli terrorism does not deserve my respect. I want israel to know I bought a computer and it has AMD processor. In fact it has four AMD processors. They offered me intel and I said no I want quality not crappy intel chips. I am proud not to be an israeli!!! I want to thank Spain, Portugal, Greece for standing up for Human rights. I love you Palestine.

10 ) Reader / from Edmonton
01/12/2012 17:46
Why should Canada constantly have to go along with US policy? The Americans are perched on an economic cliff and they are about to pull us over with them. We didn't follow their loose banking practises. Why should we be dragged under with them?

11 ) Ballis DO NOT WANTS Czechs / they only want
01/12/2012 18:56

12 ) ramzi / gaza
01/12/2012 21:28
also the states that abstain where also due to usa.see yugoslav states

13 ) Karel Schwarzenberg / Czech Republic
01/12/2012 22:37
The Czech Foreign ministry is currently controlled by a group of pro-Israeli "hawks" (heads of departments etc.) who prefer occupation over freedom. They are convinced that the for sake of Israeli security other nation can by justifiably occupied and controlled. Of course the settlements problem is not an issue for them. They do not know anything about the conflict and human rights. They are truly a shame of the Czech nation...

14 ) Kolin T / Australia
02/12/2012 01:27
That you support a system (Zionism) described as one of the spiritual twins of Nazism,the other being Apartheid South Africa is a national disgrace. You effectively condone the slow genocidal demise of the Palestinian people following in servile observance the dictates of your US MASTER rendering your reputation as an erudite, mature international citizen utterly tarnished.

15 ) Paul / France
02/12/2012 02:32
Shame on the czechs, they want EU money but are aligned to US interests. We, europeans, won't forget this lack of loyalty in this tough period that will eventually end. Sacrifying other nations rights in order to gain hypothetic american support is a disgrace. This s

16 ) Business / Israel
02/12/2012 08:30
The Czechs remember the Sudentedland. It was filled with Germans, they wanted self-determination - they wanted their own country - -after all why should Germans be ruled by Czechs and the world forced the czechs to agree and they lost their country entirely. Good to see they have not forgotten. They understand. They are with us.

17 ) Piotr Berman / USA
02/12/2012 11:02
The opposition in Czech republic has quite opposite view, and very recently it won elections to the upper chamber of the Parliament, it seems that the situation is similar as in Italy under Berlusconi. Berlusconi is now out, and Italy voted for Palestine. The current government is idiosyncratic. Periodic massacres and the expansion of settlements are eroding popular support for Israel, and you do not have massively pro-Israeli media like in North America to stop this process.

18 ) Amin / The Netherlands
02/12/2012 12:06
Shame on you Czech ! We shall never forget this disgrace stance. NO respect for you anymore.

19 ) Linek / Czech Republic
02/12/2012 18:07
Response to Paul from France. France was one of the signature of Munich Agreement contrary to the fact that France had an Agreement with Czechoslovakia about mutual military support in case of German aggression. It was cowardly behaving. So be careful with your judgment about Czech Republic and Israel!

20 ) Miro / USA/Czech origin
02/12/2012 18:28
I have to laugh at this guy from France. "Sacrifying other nations rights in order to gain "...you sold us to the Germans in 1938 to GAIN 1 year of independence! How can you comment on Czech decision when your own country stinks?! This is from Wikipedia: In 1938, Adolf Hitler demanded control of the Sudetenland. Britain, and France at the Munich Conference ceded the control in the Appeasement, ignoring the military alliance Czechoslovakia had with France.

21 ) kassandra / Estonia
03/12/2012 00:21
You forget the hundreds of thousands of ethnic Germans, people that had lived in the Czech republic for generations, that were expelled from Czechoslovakia after the war. These people were forced out with only their clothes on their backs. The Germans could make a claim for compensation against the Czechs. There is a kinship between the Czech republic and Israel.

22 ) Klara / Czech Republic
03/12/2012 10:40
There was absolutely no public discussion about the Czech official/government stand on the voting. It came (once again) as a surprise and an ashaming step by the government. It has nothing to do with the nation, their conscience and historical experience. It is only about the small circle of people in power and their personal interests. And, unfortunatelly, there will be no public gain (cash for public purposes), just cash for few involved key persons. It is a very, very corrupted country

23 ) Petr / Czech Rep.
06/12/2012 04:01
Paul/France: The French are about the last ones with any moral right to be complain about lack of loyalty of others. Who needs enemies when you have "allies" like France. Been there, done that: September 1938. Besides we all know what the reason behind the French vote was - appeasment (as usual) of the out of control, militant muslim minority in France(stan). Klara/CZ: Surprise vote? You were obviously not paying attention to the Czech foreign policy - regardless who is in power last 20 years

24 ) Hristo / Bulgaria
14/12/2012 16:38
I wish we have sided with Israel as well....
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