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Conflict between Presidency and PSD-ALDE government on transferring Romanian Embassy in Israel. Liviu Dragnea’s stake

de Victor Bratu , 23.4.2018

President Klaus Iohannis was not previously informed or consulted on the topic regarding the transfer of Romanian Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a press release issued Friday by the Presidential Administration.

Liviu Dragnea announced on Thursday evening at Antena 3 that the Government discussed a memorandum aimed at moving Romania’s diplomatic mission in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “This decision is taken, I support it and procedures start,” said Liviu Dragnea.

Romania would be the third country in the world to carry out this embassy relocation after the US and Guatemala.

On Friday morning, the Presidency issued a release stating: “The President, as the holder of decisions on the Romanian foreign policy and Romania’s representative externally in accordance with the constitutional provisions, reiterates that our country’s constant position on the Middle East Peace Process remains unchanged.”

Relevant context:

Present at a reception on the occasion of Israel’s Independence Day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent on Thursday the following message to foreign diplomats:

I am happy to announce that at least half a dozen countries are seriously discussing with us about transferring their embassies to Jerusalem. So please, there is a simple principle that you know – the first one wins. We have decided that first ten embassies that will come here will receive a preferential treatment. We shall help you! You all should do that.”

The reaction from Cotroceni: embassy relocation would mean a violation of the relevant international law

The Presidential Administration sent Friday a release stating: “Such step can only be made after a thorough analysis that considers all the external political consequences and implications.”

The release is presented in the following (emphasis made by the editorial team):

“President Klaus Iohannis believes that Romanian Government’s initiative might represent at the very least the beginning of an evaluation process on this matter, which can only be completed when the Middle East Peace Process negotiations are concluded, where the status of Jerusalem is a core theme. This status can be established only after concluding a direct and final agreement between parties.

The President, as the holder of decisions on the Romanian foreign policy and Romania’s representative externally in accordance with the constitutional provisions, reiterates that our country’s constant position on the Middle East Peace Process remains unchanged. President Klaus Iohannis stresses again the need for a just and lasting settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by implementing the “solution of the two states“, Israel and Palestine, which to coexist in peace and security, as the only viable option, able to guarantee the fulfilment of the parties’ aspirations.

The President of Romania reaffirms that our country’s position on Jerusalem city’s status remains in line with that established by the resolutions of the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly on this matter. The Presidential Administration reminds that there are several resolutions of the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly that among others ask UN member states to refrain from establishing diplomatic missions in Jerusalem and step up international peace efforts towards a lasting peace, comprehensive and just in the Middle East.

Therefore, at this stage, Romanian embassy’s relocation to Jerusalem would be a violation of the relevant international law.

Taking all these aspects into account, President Klaus Iohannis urges all governmental and political factors to prove accountability and discernment regarding major Romania’s foreign policy decisions with strategic effects, including on the national security and Romanian citizens. In this regard, such a decision should be taken only after consulting and based on the approval of all institutions involved in the field of foreign policy and national security and the final decision belongs to the President of Romania, from the constitutional point of view.

Liviu Dragnea’s announcement on embassy relocation

PSD President Liviu Dragnea said on Thursday evening at Antena 3 that the relocation of the embassy “may and I believe will bring great benefit to Romania“.

Romania would be the third state in the world to do that after the US and Guatemala.

According to sources consulted by cursdeguvernare.ro, the announcement made by the PSD President paves the way for an official meeting of Prime Minister Viorica Dancila with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but an official visit to Israel is only wanted by Liviu Dragnea, who seeks international recognition for his government and foreign allies for PSD.

This decision is taken, I support it and procedures start. The Government has adopted a memorandum that decides to start the procedures for moving the embassy. It may seem of a little importance, but it has a huge symbolic value for a state that has a tremendous influence in the world, where there are over 500,000 Romanians, it has a great value for the US administration. I heard all sorts of speculations, some being of Russian inspiration, others of a nature related to the Securitate… We pretend that we have an embassy in Tel Aviv, but diplomatic personnel are commuting to Jerusalem, as they work there,” Liviu Dragnea argued at Antena 3.

Worthy to mention: The public was not informed about the memorandum mentioned by Liviu Dragnea, as it was missing from the list of legal acts that the Government adopted or which it took note of in the meeting of 18 April (see facsimile below).

Five memorandums are officially listed, none of which about the diplomatic representation in Israel.

The information on the relocation of the embassy was provided to the press by sources, and the Government’s spokesperson, Nelu Barbu, replied when asked about the subject: “I do not know, I have not seen such a Memorandum.”

At the Government meeting on April 18, the memorandum was presented by the Secretary of State George Ciamba, a sign that Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu avoids the subject.

Romania would be the third country in the world to announce that it will relocate the diplomatic representation in Israel to Jerusalem.

The first who announced that Jerusalem is recognized as the capital city of the Israel state (implicitly that the US will move the embassy there) was the US President Donald Trump, last year.

The only state that soon made a similar announcement is Guatemala.

Details offered by Haaretz daily: “prizes” for first 10

According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the Memorandum presenting the idea of the relocation of the Romanian Embassy takes place following a visit made by the Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) last week to the Romanian capital city, where she met with the head of the Romanian diplomacy Teodor Melescanu.

Tzipi Hotovely told Teodor Melescanu that “there will be a historic opportunity following the move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem.”

It is time to choose to be on the good side of history and be one of the pioneer countries that moves the embassy to our capital city Jerusalem,” the Israeli diplomat would have said, according to Haaretz.

Teodor Melescanu replied that he would analyse the matter.

Tzipi Hotovely is to visit the Czech Republic, which would be the next state to announce its intention to move the embassy to Jerusalem.

Romania and the Czech Republic are EU member states and Brussels opposes the unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel and supports the recognition of the city as the capital city of Israel and Palestine, with the borders from 1967.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday at a reception of foreign diplomats on Israel’s Independence Day: “You can do two things to help Israel celebrate this wonderful Independence Day. The first is to speak against Iran and the second to promote peace by moving your embassies here,” the prime minister said, according to Haaretz.

I am happy to announce that at least half a dozen countries are seriously discussing with us about transferring their embassies to Jerusalem. So please, there is a simple principle that you know – the first one wins. We have decided that first ten embassies that will come here will receive a preferential treatment. We shall help you! You all should do that,” Netanyahu said.

Sensitivity of topic on embassy in Israel

The situation of Jerusalem is complicated from the diplomatic point of view, both Palestinians and Israelis arguing that the city is the capital of their state. De facto, Jerusalem is divided into two parts, the western part being controlled by Israel, the eastern part by Palestinians.

The US President’s position was apparently firm as Donald Trump stated in his speech that the US remained consistent with the ”two states” solution, noting that he does not dictate how much of Jerusalem must be the capital city of the state of Israel and this way leaves the possibility open for East Jerusalem to become the capital city of a future Palestinian state.

The State Department has tried, through statements, to present the idea of moving the embassy as a concept and insisted that the effective relocation might only take place only after many years.

The announcement made by the US President has caused immediate reprisal reactions, most of the world’s leaders appreciating that this decision of the US is a destabilizing factor in an area that is already so tense.

French President Emmanuel Macron said: “It is a regrettable decision that France does not approve, which contradicts international law and all UN Security Council resolutions.”

The decision was also criticized by US allies such as the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey. Lebanon and Jordan consider that Donald Trump’s statements “set back the peace process by decades.”

UN Secretary General António Guterres said that the US does not offer any alternative to a “two states” type of solution between Israel and the Palestinians and that Jerusalem is a “final rank issue” that should be solved through direct talks. “I firmly opposed any unilateral action that would jeopardize the prospects of peace for Israelis and Palestinians,” said Guterres.

Just before Donald Trump’s statements, Pope Francis warned that the world must respect the status quo of this city. “I cannot remain silent about the deepest fears related to the situation created in recent days,” said Pope Francis.

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