On Sunday, Czech president Milos Zeman told local news media he has closed the door to the Prague Castle, the residence of country’s president, on the US ambassador Andrew Schapiro for criticizing his planned trip to Moscow.
“I cannot image a Czech ambassador in Washington giving advice to the US president on where he should travel,” Zeman said.
“I will not let any ambassador speak into my plans of foreign trips. I’m afraid after his statement, Prague Castle’s doors to Schapiro are closed,” Zeman added.
On Monday, Czech prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka criticized Zeman for making ‘hasty’ statement which could tarnish country’s relation with Barack Obama and the European Jewish communities. He also emphasized that Czech future lies with the European Union and NATO not with country’s former colonial masters, the Soviet Union.
The Czech presidency has largely a ceremonial role but Zeman – who was the first president directly elected when he took office in 2013 – has frequently drawn the ire of pro-Israel government leaders for his public comments on domestic and foreign affairs.
Prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka is very close to the European Jewish lobby groups. He never misses attending Holocaust memorial parades wearing Jewish skullcap in Prague, Auschwitz and Jerusalem. In November 2014, Sobotka along with 41-member delegation visited Israel where he met Benjamin Netanyahu and Zionist entity’s president Reuven Rivlin. During his meeting with Netanyahu he praised Israel being Czech’s trusted ally and the best democratic state in the region.
During his visit to Israel, Sobotka spoke of the peace process and expressed his support for a two-state solution, which would guarantee two independent states – Israel and Palestine. He also offered his help in restoring a dialogue with several Arab countries that have good diplomatic relations with the Czech Republic. Sobotka stated his recognition of Israel’s security demands in light of the current global environment. Benjamin Netanyahu conveyed his appreciation of the position taken by the Czech Republic.
Andrew Schapiro’s parents were Jewish immigrants from Prague. He is also an old friend of Barack Obama from law school.
Czech Republic was part of communist-ruled Czechoslovakia. It’s total population in 2014 was 10.7 million including 12,000 Jews and around 20,000 Muslims. Islamophobia is on rise in Czech. Anti-Islam White supremacist and Jewish groups have praised Zeman for his efforts to control spread of Islam in the country.