(Israel Hayom via JNS) In what was the first ever address by a Czech leader to Israel’s legislative body, President Miloš Zeman sent a message of “solidarity with Israel and the Jewish people” to the Knesset on Monday.
Among those in attendance at the historic speech were Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.
The Joint Arab List boycotted Zeman’s address in light of his statements recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and questioning the need for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Zeman brought a smile to the faces of many in attendance when he said, “Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu said the Czech Republic is Israel’s best friend in Europe. I wonder, why only Europe? Anyway, I am the best friend of Israel in my whole country.”
Zeman said he hoped that Tuesday’s dedication of the Czech House, a diplomatic mission set to focus on cultural exchange, in Jerusalem would lead to the relocation of the Czech embassy to the city.
“I am no dictator, unfortunately, but I promise I will do my best,” he quipped.
In November, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said that Prague would not break with E.U. policy on the status of Jerusalem.
Zeman emphasized the need to “avoid political correctness,” saying he insists on using the term “Islamic terrorism.”
“We Europeans … I speak about the E.U., in fact, are sometimes hesitating. We sometimes are cowards. It is very impolite, isn’t it? But I am afraid it is frank. And that’s why it is necessary all the time the solidarity with Israel. Because [if we] betray Israel, we betray ourselves.”
He said the decision by the European Parliament to host “Palestinian terrorists” was a “disgrace,” in an apparent reference to the body’s decision to host Leila Khaled, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine who was involved in the hijacking of an American airplane in 1969 and a failed hijacking attempt on an El Al flight the following year, in 2017.
Presenting Zeman with the “Protector of Jerusalem Award,” Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin said Zeman had been a “true friend of Israel” over the years.
Rivin and his wife, Nechama, hosted a state reception for Zeman and his wife Ivana Zamanova.
Speaking at the reception, Rivlin called Zeman a “close friend of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.”
“You are one of Jerusalem’s closest friends,” he said, calling Zeman’s support for Jerusalem a “special gift.”