Sunday, 3 November 2019

LN: Minister Herman is Israel's main ally in Czech politics

ČTK |
19 September 2016

Prague, Sept 17 (CTK) - Culture Minister Daniel Herman (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL) is considered the main ally of Israeli interests in Czech politics and he is a backstage figure that influences foreign policy, daily Lidove noviny (LN) writes on Saturday.

The Czech foreign policy resulted from a power game between the Foreign Ministry, the Presidential Office and the Government Office, but a recent government dispute about the nomination of former deputy foreign minister Petr Drulak for ambassador to France showed that Herman often played a role as well, the paper writes.

Drulak, currently political secretary to Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek (Social Democrats, CSSD), decided to leave the ministry. Zaoralek, who always appreciated his analytical skills, included his name in the list of new ambassadors. On September 5, the government discussed this list in a secret regime.

Daily Pravo wrote previously that the ministers argued about Drulak's nomination. Finance Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) did not consider Drulak suitable for the post, while Herman claimed that Drulak was an anti-Semite, Pravo wrote.

Given the secret regime, nobody from the government is willing to comment on the dispute, LN writes.

Former foreign minister Cyril Svoboda (KDU-CSL) said being accused of anti-Semitism is a label that one can hardly get rid of in diplomacy.

"Irrespective of what occurred in the government concerning Mr Drulak, it is unfortunate. The Foreign Ministry seems to have underestimated the preliminary discussion about the names of new ambassadors in the government coalition. I cannot imagine that the issue would calm down after this," Svoboda told LN.

Such an accusation would not be so surprising because Herman promotes the policy of unconditional openness towards Israel.

"When it is necessary to estimate the Israeli reaction in advance, the issues are often consulted through Herman," an unnamed diplomatic source said.

Svoboda, who was considered "an Israeli liaison officer" when he was foreign minister, has no doubt that Herman is the biggest ally of Israel in the Czech government, LN writes.

Drulak has never openly criticised Israeli politics, but he repeatedly said points of controversy must be discussed with Israel, which might have been a reason for Herman to oppose his nomination.

Drulak recently told Pravo that Czech diplomacy has tried to find more common agenda with the Palestinian representatives. "I am afraid that somebody might label this policy anti-Semitic," he said, hinting at Drulak.

This is not the first case in which Herman intervened in foreign political affairs, however, LN writes.

Last December, Herman agitated for a parliamentary resolution that would reject a EU plan to ban "Made in Israel" labels on goods coming from territories that Israel occupies according to the interpretation of international law.

"This effort that tries to discriminate against the only democracy in the Middle East must be completely rejected and our ally must be clearly backed," Herman said then.

The Chamber of Deputies recommended that the government reject the EU plan and the government rejected it.

In early September, Herman intervened into a dispute over an atlas for Czech schools in which Jerusalem is the Israeli capital, not Tel Aviv.

The Palestinian diplomatic mission complained about the school atlas and the Education Ministry promised to correct it. But then Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat complained about the ministry's position to Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (CSSD) and a demonstration in support of Israel was held in Prague's centre.

Herman clearly sided with Israel. "Every country decides on its capital city on its own. If one reads the Bible, there is nothing about Tel Aviv," he said on Twitter.

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