While Europe was seemingly “lost” in the words of one Israeli official with regard to yesterday’s vote on the Palestinian status at the United Nations, one European country held firm: the Czech Republic. The Czechs were one of nine countries to vote outright against the initiative to give Palestine non-observer member status.
To gain some insight on this, I got in touch with James Kirchick, a Tablet columnist and a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, who lives in Berlin and is our expert on Central Europe.
Here’s his Praguenosis:
The Czech vote against upgrading Palestinian status at the United Nations is significant, as it sets the small, Central European country apart from every other nation on the continent, all of which voted for the motion or abstained. Once Germany announced that it would abstain rather than vote against the measure, many assumed that the Czechs would follow the lead of their large and influential neighbor.
That the Czechs sided with Israel and the United States demonstrates the importance that Prague attaches to the transatlantic alliance, as it was willing to buck its fellow EU members and side with Washington on a controversial issue. The vote also shows the affinity that the Czech Republic has long felt for Israel, an affinity that dates at least from the visit that Tomas Masaryk, the first President of independent Czechoslovakia, made to Palestine in 1927, through communist Czechoslovakia’s supply of weapons to the Jewish State in the 1948 War of Independence, the presidency of Vaclav Havel (whose second state visit as president of free Czechoslovakia was to Israel), up to the present day. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made two visits to Prague in the last two years. On his most recent trip just a few months ago–a joint cabinet summit that was the largest ever for the Czech Republic–he presciently declared that Israel has “no better friends in Europe than the Czech Republic.” Though Prague made a decision that was unpopular internationally, its support for Israel is not likely to be forgotten in either Washington or Jerusalem.