Prague - Relations between Israel and the Czech Republic are very strong, but the Czech Republic has the right also to express views that are different from Israel´s, Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog told CTK after meeting Czech Chamber of Deputies chairman Jan Hamacek today.
Vztahy mezi Izraelem a Českou republikou jsou velmi silné, Česko má ale právo vyjadřovat i odlišný názor, než má židovský stát. ČTK to 7. srpna po jednání s předsedou Sněmovny Janem Hamáčkem (vpravo) řekl lídr izraelské levicové opozice Jicchak Herzog (vlevo). Nedomnívá se, že by podpora současné české vlády Izraeli byla slabší než v minulosti. ČTK Nerad Filip
He said he does not find the present Czech government´s support to Israel weaker than in the past.
Herzog also met Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek (Social Democrats, CSSD), who expressed concern over the deaths of civilians in the Gaza Strip in a letter he sent to his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman today.
After meeting Hamacek (CSSD), Herzog said Israel and the Czech Republic share joint values. Nevertheless, between friends it is legitimate also to express a different view and ask questions, Herzog, head of the Israeli Labour Party, responded to the question of whether he feels that Prague´s support to Tel Aviv has diminished under the present centre-left cabinet, as asserted by the Czech right-wing opposition.
Herzog said in Prague, not only in parliament, he has met with a very strong support to Israel.
Hamacek assured Herzog that the Czech Republic is still interested in having special relations with Israel.
"On the other hand, however, I told [Herzog] that the Middle East equation comprises two elements. It is necessary to approach the Arab states in a balanced way as well," Hamacek said.
"Unlike the previous [Czech rightist] cabinet, we will not uncritically nod to all steps the centre-right government of Benjamin Netanyahu takes," said Hamacek and added that Herzog agreed with him on this point.
Herzog said there are issues that stand above all these things.
It is necessary to ensure Israel´s security. Israel is fighting against terrorists, and this battle is a joint interest of the whole world. Israel is trying hard to achieve peace, and the Czech government is striving for the same, Herzog said, commenting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
According to the the Czech Foreign Ministry´s press release, Zaoralek told Herzog that he was shocked to hear about the high number of civilians, including children hiding in school buildings, who were killed within the Israeli army´s recent operation in the Gaza Strip.
"Although we recognise Israel´s right to reasonable defence, we´ve repeatedly called for the reaction to be reasonable," Zaoralek added.
Hamacek said he understands Israel´s right to self-defence against the Hamas movement´s attacks from Gaza and he knows that the military operations in the urban area are demanding.
"Nevertheless, I told him [Herzog] that so horrible death toll among civilians, mainly children and women, is something that does not create a positive image of Israel on the international level," Hamacek said.
Herzog said three steps must be taken to calm down the situation in Gaza.
Israel must remove the terrorist infrastructure, such as tunnels, along its border, he said, adding that the military has coped with the task already.
Then it will be necessary to prevent Hamas´s attacks from repeating. Afterwards, a programme of Gaza´s renewal must be launched, along with Gaza´s demilitarisation, Herzog said.
He said he considers negotiations with the Palestine self-rule, headed by Mahmoud Abbas, a means of stabilisation.
It will not be easy, the two sides differ on many issues, but it is necessary to try to resume the peace process, Herzog said.
Sharing the view, Hamacek said the Palestinian self-rule authority, mainly Abbas, must be reinforced. Abbas must be helped to regain Palestinians´ support, and money must be invested in the renewal of Gaza, Hamacek said.
He said the crucial thing is to prevent a situation where the Israeli military operations would even reinforce radicals in the Middle East.
"Unfortunately, Hamas is no longer the most horrible threat. There are elements that are even more radical and more dangerous," Hamacek warned.
Zaoralek, too, said the moderate Palestinian leadership should be involved in solving the situation in Gaza.
"It is in Israel´s interest that the Palestinian self-rule, headed by President Abbas, takes control of the Gaza Strip. It is undoubtedly a complex task, but at present it is the only realistic alternative," Zaoralek said.