******UPDATE AT BOTTOM******

Israel and Serbia: “Historically good ties” (Tanjug, April 29)

JERUSALEM – Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic began a two-day visit to Israel on Monday by meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres, with whom he talked about the historically good ties between the Serbian and Jewish people and possibilities for expanding economic and scientific cooperation.

In Jerusalem, Nikolic spoke in favor of strengthening economic cooperation between Serbia and Israel, and thanked the country for its principled support to Serbia’s stance on the unilaterally proclaimed independence of Kosovo-Metohija, expressing hope that this position will be maintained.

Nikolic said his visit to Israel is an expression of Serbia’s and his personal gratitude for Israel’s consistent and principled position, and invited Peres to visit Serbia.

“…I am very happy that the EU is now seriously considering the possibility of accepting Serbia as a new member state. I am also very glad about your dialogue with Kosovo. All conflicts should be resolved through dialogue,” Peres said.

“History constantly tortured us and brought us together. Our two nations and the Roma suffered terrible pogroms during World War Two,” said the Serbian president.

Nikolic said the Jewish community in Serbia today is small, because many left in search of a better life, but those who left consider both Serbia and Israel their homeland.

Nikolic expressed understanding for the security issues Israel is facing, but said Serbia cannot choose a side in the Middle East.

“Today I am a leader of a Serbia which cannot choose sides in this. We understand your problem completely, but we have also had a huge burden placed on our shoulders. We can hardly carry this burden by ourselves, because we have been surrounded by rockets, which struck our people and our country and we can never be sure it will not happen again,” said Nikolic.

President Peres said Israel has learned a few things from the former Yugoslavia and Serbia. The first thing is Zionism, which emerged there [indeed, father of Zionism Theodor Herzl’s parents were from Serbia], but also the fact that a country such as the former Yugoslavia in fact dissolves through internal discord.

We learnt from Yugoslavia that it is better to create several states in which people will be able to live in peace and cooperate than to keep them artificially in a single multiethnic and multi-confessional country. The thing that breaks up a country is internal discord, said Peres.

On Monday, Nikolic also toured the Museum of Israel and laid a wreath at the Yad Vashem memorial center to the victims of the Holocaust.

After visiting Israel, the Serbian president will proceed to Palestine, where he will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Serbian president on visit to Palestine (B92, May 2)

RAMALLAH — Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić late on Wednesday arrived in Palestine, where he was greeted with top honors and the sounding of anthems.

“We have a similar fate and solve it in a similar way - through negotiations…[He does have a point that the Palestinians have been in one set of talks or another with Israel for the past five decades, whereas it wasn’t permissible for “Kosovars” to have to wait even eight years.] He pointed out that it was difficult to start talks, while then “a [imposed] solution is found.”

“Serbia just never let anyone threaten our integrity and humiliate us, and President Abbas will not let that happen to the Palestinian people,” Nikolić said.

Noting that Serbia has good relations with both Palestine and Israel, Nikolić said he was confident they would come to an agreement, and recalled that the Serbian vote for Palestine in the UN General Assembly came because of the country’s “feeling, soul, and desire that every citizen and nation on the globe should have its rights…but in this conflict, do not make us take sides….”

[Abbas said,] “…[Y]our country was one of the first to host an early dialogue between the Palestinians and Israel.” …He emphasized that Serbia “will be in the EU” because it is deserved this as a democracy with the rule of law, and that Serbia has many friends outside the EU.

The Serbian president laid a wreath at the grave of former Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat in Ramallah. […]

I’ve been meaning to address the Serbian vote at the UN in December in favor of a Palestinian state, which Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic claims was made out of some kind of “feeling.” (Though a byproduct of the vote was that it bought isolated Serbia some political capital with the Palestinians, so certainly that’s something for Nikolic to make use of.) In fact, voting Yes to the resolution would make it easier to give away Kosovo, which Nikolic was in the process of doing at that moment; voting for “Palestine” is also voting for the even more fictitious nation of “Kosova.” Because both have been illegally self-proclaimed. Serbia’s vote wasn’t about hurting Israel, it was about getting Serbia to hurt itself. And because the government is almost entirely controlled from the outside, that wasn’t exactly difficult.

One should also consider Serbia’s lack of incentive to take a principled (and at the same time U.S.-pleasing) stand on the issue, given that a lack of principle was employed in the parallel case involving Serbia, in favor of her adversaries. And so one is merely voting for consistency, and at the same time making a point about the domino effect created by breaking the principle.

Here was the item about the UN vote: Albania one of 41 abstentions at United Nations (Jerusalem Post, Dec. 2)

…Netanyahu spoke over the weekend with Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas and thanked him for his country’s “courageous UN vote against the Palestinian Authority’s request.”

“The history of Israel and the Czech Republic has taught us that one must cling to the truth even if the majority is not with you,” Netanyahu said. “Your vote must serve as an example for all those who support peace, which can be achieved only via direct negotiations without preconditions.”

While Prague will be the only state Netanyahu will visit to thank for its position, there was obvious gratitude in Jerusalem to the seven other countries who joined Israel and the Czech republic to vote against the PA resolution: Canada, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Panama and the United States. [All, incidentally, being inconsistent as they did recognize the more far-fetched statehood of Kosovo. It’s worth a reminder that the Czechs were overwhelmingly and vehemently against Kosovo recognition as well.]

Although officials in Jerusalem expressed disappointment that Germany – which often votes for Israel in international forums – abstained, there was satisfaction that certain other countries did abstain, first and foremost Albania, which is a Muslim country with whom Israel has developed close ties over the last couple of years.

It’s of course not insignificant that rather than outright voting against the resolution, Albania abstained. The national character being, as always, to hedge its bets and play both sides. (Especially as, Albanian Kosovo tries to woo Arab and Muslim countries for recognitions simultaneously with wooing Israel.)

While Israel was disappointed at how the EU voted, especially Italy which voted for the Palestinians, 12 EU countries did abstain. With the exception of Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, all the other abstentions came from the former Iron Curtain countries: Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

Another nine non-EU European states also abstained: Albania, Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Monaco, Montenegro, Moldova, San Marino and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

In Africa, Israel took some comfort from that fact that five countries abstained: Cameroon, the Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Rwanda and Togo, whose president was in Israel last week.

The contrast between the Serbian and Albanian votes was a boon to the confusion-sowers: ‘Ah, well then, there’s the proof that we’ve been on the right side in the Balkans all along.’ Nice and simple. It’s almost enough to make one quit her indentured servitude to the truth. But then one remembers that Albania still awaits the all-important Israeli recognition of Kosovo and therefore wouldn’t alienate Israel anytime soon. That’s in addition to what we already know: Albania has never had a particular animosity toward Jews. (Though Jews still found it unpleasant enough to be airlifted out, and bin Laden found “Hotel Tirana” to be optimal for jihad-planning in the 90s.)

As for Serbia, how big a halo does the world expect to find over demon-Serb heads? Aside from the fact that rejection by the Free World has forced Serbia to cozy up to the very Muslim world that pulled the West’s strings in the 90s, it’s certainly understandable that Serbia would take a rare opportunity to rebel against its Washington masters, by signing onto a UN resolution that the U.S. is against. Especially to demonstrate the germane point all along: YOU, America, set this precedent in 1999; we’re just being consistent with YOUR policy — the one that Israel correctly feared would come to be used against it. The effect, of course, hurts Israel while getting back at the U.S., something Russia is prophesized to do in a much bigger way in our lifetimes. It’s all the more unfortunate, given that the U.S. is no friend of Israel, and so hurting Israel…is just hurting Israel.

******UPDATE******

My friend Alyse — who’s always having online fights with anti-Serbs and anti-Jews — offered this about the Serbian UN vote:

Yes, it was ugly – but you are right – How big a halo should I expect! (My husband used it as another opportunity to point out to me that the real patriots are in Republika Srpska and the Serbian Serbs are spoiled… Of course I shouldn’t tempt fate by expecting that they continue doing the right thing either) – Personally I think they just wanted to side with Russia, just to do it, for pride – but – on second thought – probably a lot goes into these decisions that I know nothing about(!!!)