The Jerusalem Post

Ambassador to Czech Republic ‘hit the jackpot’


Ambassador Daniel Meron was counting his blessings this week, looking back at his time in the Czech Republic, which is set to end this month.

“I really hit the jackpot with this posting,” Meron said in an interview that can also be viewed in video format on The Jerusalem Post’s Facebook page. “The Czech Republic is probably one of Israel’s best friends in Europe.”

Meron cited polling that showed 70% of Czechs are supportive of Israel, a figure that he called “amazing.”

“Here in Europe, such support is unheard of,” he said. “The level of antisemiti­sm is also extremely low, and generally, we see a great feeling of support towards Israel.”

That support has repeatedly been translated into action, Meron said, easily listing recent pro-Israel moves from Prague, such as when the parliament rejected the EU’s prohibitio­n for products from Judea and Samaria to be “made in Israel,” adopted a resolution that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, adopted the Internatio­nal Holocaust Remembranc­e Alliance definition of antisemiti­sm and condemned the BDS movement.

Meron was confident that, after opening a Czech cultural center in Jerusalem, and then a Jerusalem branch of its embassy in Tel Aviv, Prague will go all the way and move its embassy to Israel’s capital, this year or the next.

“Every year we see resolution­s passed and action by the government when it comes to Israel,” Meron said, “including standing up in defense of Israel and in defense of truth at the UN and in the EU at ever opportunit­y.”

One such opportunit­y came in May, during Operation Guardian of the Walls, when the Israeli flags were waved over Prague Castle and the foreign ministry. Meron said the Israeli embassy received calls from Czech citizens asking if they can have flags to wave, as well.

The Czechs know “Hamas are the bad guys and Israel are the good guys,” the ambassador said, recounting times he showed the Hamas charter’s calls for genocide.

The same goes for Hezbollah. The Czech Republic banned the Shi’ite group in its entirety as a terrorist group last year, going further than the EU proscripti­on of only its “military wing,” a distinctio­n that Hezbollah itself does not make. Meron said the move was “quite easy,” because Czech legislator­s know “who is the firefighte­r and who is the arsonist.”

Czech support for Israel goes back a century, with the first

president of the first Republic of Czechoslov­akia Tomáš Masaryk, and there are streets and squares honoring him throughout Israel, as well as a kibbutz near Haifa founded by Czech Jews.

One explanatio­n Meron gave for such enthusiast­ic support in the Czech Republic for Israel is “something we repeat time after

time, which is received here very well, that Israel is a democratic state where freedom of speech is central, and that is quite unique to see in our region…They say we are a democratic state and we support you, because you are adhering to similar values as the Czech Republic.”

More broadly, Meron pointed out that support for Israel has increased throughout Europe, especially in central Europe, in the past 15 years.

“There’s a realizatio­n that the core issue in the Middle East is not the Israeli-Palestinia­n conflict, but a whole wider issue,” he said. “A few years ago, 100,000 refugees moved from the Middle

East towards Europe… Countries in Central Europe were very cautious about it. I think they understand Israel is part of the solution, not part of the problem.”

The Abraham Accords, signed between Israel and four Arab states, was another indication that Israel is not the problem and seeks peace, he added.

In addition, Israel becoming a natural gas exporter helped improve its standing with many European countries.

Still, Meron said Israel should not take contempora­ry support for granted, and he sought ways to make close ties with Israel an asset for the Czech Republic.

“We identified areas that are important for the Czechs where Israel has some advantage, including cybersecur­ity, hi-tech, agricultur­e and water management,” Meron said. “Central Europe has been suffering a terrible drought for four years, and we brought over top experts… to share with them Israel’s experience and knowledge when it comes to water and tackling these issues.”

“We’re not only saying thank you” for supporting Israel, “we’re saying thank you and we want to share with you,” the ambassador said.

One of the things Meron is most proud of during his years in Prague is the embassy’s work on

Holocaust education. He visited dozens of high schools each year to speak about the Holocaust and about Israel-Czech relations.

“Recently, in a town in South Moravia, a teacher said to me, ‘we love Israel and we don’t understand why the Nazis wanted to kill you. What’s wrong with you? Jews are normal people,’” Meron said.

“That was such a moving moment for me, to see how we managed to reach people.”

For older Czechs, the lessons of World War II, in which the allies tried to appease Nazi Germany by letting it invade Czechoslov­akia, and the Israeli ethos play a part in their support for Israel.

“I heard from many Czechs that, ‘when the Munich Accords were signed, our allies betrayed us. We had deals with the British and the French, and they betrayed us, but you don’t trust anyone. You defend yourself and stand up for yourself,’” Meron said.

The ambassador also enjoyed hearing from Czechs who returned from visits to Israel, including about small groups of young Jewish Czechs taking part in Birthright Israel trips and a delegation of female entreprene­urs who visited Israel twice.

“To see these relations and people coming back from Israel so excited about it has been truly unbelievab­le for me,” Meron said.

 ?? (Karel Cudlín) ?? DANIEL MERON, former ambassador to Prague .
(Karel Cudlín) DANIEL MERON, former ambassador to Prague .

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