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LN: Zeman’s pro-Putin approach helps Middle East foes of Israel

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Prague, Oct 1 (CTK) – No doubt Czech President Milos Zeman is a fan of Israel who dislikes Muslims, but his siding with Vladimir Putin plays into the hands of those in the Middle East who wish “Israel in jeopardy,” Zbynek Petracek writes in daily Lidove noviny (LN) on Saturday.

The September 30 last farewell to Shimon Peres was the largest gathering of world politicians since the funeral of Nelson Mandela, and the question is whether Zeman should have attended it rather than take part in the Dialogue of Civilisation conference that a friend of Putin hosted on Rhodes, Petracek writes.

Peres was a Nobel Peace Prize holder, the last of Israel’s founding fathers and the last Israeli politician directly tied with the pre-war Central Europe (he was born in 1923 in Poland, in an area that is a part of Belarus now), Petracek writes.

The Rhodes conference, for its part, promotes the values of Putin’s Russia, while its main organiser, Vladimir Yakunin, is a person blacklisted by the USA, Petracek writes.

Has Zeman betrayed Prague’s western allies by preferring to attend the Rhodes event? Petracek asks.

The dilemma is not that dramatic. Zeman’s admiration for Putin’s “forcible style,” which has repeatedly aroused controversies on the Czech scene, is rather unimportant from the Middle East’s strategic point of view, Petracek writes.

After all, Zeman has enjoyed a good reputation in Israel for long. In his capacity as former Czech prime minister, he refused to meet Yasser Arafat in Israel in 2002, Petracek writes.

“If someone looks like a duck, walks like a duck and croaks like a duck, then it is a duck,” he said and thereby branded Arafat a terrorist.

This met with a positive acclaim across the Israeli political spectrum, Petracek writes.

However, Zeman’s approach to Putin is a different and a more complex matter. Israel has nothing against Putin, but it is afraid of a power rise of Putin’s Russia in the Shiite-controlled countries or groups in the Middle East, Petracek writes.

Israel is afraid of an alliance of Russia, Iran, Hizbollah and Bashar Assad’s Syria. It views its emergence as Russia’s reaction to the the U.S. withdrawal from the region under Barack Obama, Petracek writes.

Commenting on Peres’s death, some Israeli media wrote that Peres’s dream of a new Middle East is coming true after his death, though different from what he dreamt of. Obama has left Syria to Iran and Hizbollah and allowed Putin to change the eastern Mediterranean into a Russian sea, The Jerusalem Post daily has written, Petracek says.

These, too, are the consequences of Obama’s deal with Iran, he adds.

Zeman’s support for Israel and his opposition to Muslims are unchallengeable. However, his support for Putin plays into the hands of those in the Middle East who want Israel to be endangered, Petracek writes.

Zeman might have learnt this at the funeral of Shimon Peres. No one would tell him this on Rhodes, Petracek concludes.

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