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Kosovo Becomes First Muslim State to Recognize Jerusalem as Israeli Capital

Kosovo Becomes First Muslim State to Recognize Jerusalem as Israeli Capital
Will more follow suit?
By Hugh Fitzgerald

Now there are three. Kosovo became the third state to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and will be placing its embassy there this spring. This takes on a special importance because it is also the first Muslim state to make such a move, which may in the future be emulated by the boldest, most determinedly friendly to Israel, Arab state, now moving full-speed ahead with its normalization of ties with the Jewish state – the U.A.E. If that happens, others – most likely Bahrain, the Maldives, and Morocco – could be the next Muslim states to follow suit.

Here’s the report on the Kosovo Embassy, and the Czech “embassy branch,” now in Jerusalem: “Following Prague, Kosovo to open embassy in Jerusalem,” by Ariel Kahana and Yori Yalon, Israel Hayom, March 12, 2021:

Kosovo is set to become the third country to open an embassy in Jerusalem. Israel Hayom has learned senior diplomats from both countries will attend the ceremony marking the embassy’s opening to be held in central Jerusalem, on March 7.

On Thursday, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis were in attendance as the Czech Republic christened a new branch of its embassy in the Israeli capital.

Also on Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a summit with Babis and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

It is important to note that the Czechs are not placing a consulate in Jerusalem, but what Prague calls a “branch of its embassy.” This is a different thing, and brings the Czechs a step closer to elevating that branch so that it becomes the main Embassy, with the Tel Aviv office then becoming, as it ought to, a “branch of the embassy in Jerusalem.” No wonder the PA has howled in protest at this decision by the Czech Republic, calling it “a violation of international law.” The President of the Czech Republic, Milos Zeman, has for several years been calling for moving the embassy to Jerusalem. He has criticized the EU’s position on Jerusalem, calling its member states “cowards” and stating that they “are doing all they can so a pro-Palestinian terrorist movement can have supremacy over a pro-Israeli movement.” He may yet get his way.

Hungary, like the Czech Republic, has an office in Jerusalem. In 2019 it opened its trade office “with diplomatic status,” which suggests that like the Czechs, Hungary may be considering the next likely move, that is elevating the current trade office in Jerusalem to become the Hungarian Embassy to Israel. It is one that the Prime Minister, Victor Orban, supports.

Netanyahu praised both countries for acting to open official offices in Jerusalem and said Israel appreciates “them helping us on the international stage, as true friends do.”

Both European leaders announced they would examine Israel’s vaccination campaign.

Israel’s ability to vaccinate more than 60% of its population within just a few months has astounded the world; many other countries have sent officials to Jerusalem to discover just how the Israelis have managed to outpace every other country. This has led more countries, on whom this feat has made a deep impression, including even some states who in the past have automatically voted against Israel in the U.N., to reconsider their animus. Israel’s medical triumph has also become a diplomatic triumph.

Orban noted that despite the financial crisis Israel and Hungary both face as a result of the pandemic, bilateral trade had increased in 2020.

“This is an expression of true friendship,” he said….

Aside from the embassies of the U.S. and Guatemala, already in Jerusalem, and that of Kosovo, just about to be, and the two “branches of their embassies in Jerusalem” that now both Hungary and the Czech Republic have established, Equatorial Guinea’s president pledged in mid-February to move his country’s embassy to Jerusalem. This makes it the second African state to announce such a move; at the end of 2020 Malawi’s Foreign Minister, Eisenhower Mkaka, announced that his country would be moving its embassy to Jerusalem by the summer of 2021. At least seven other countries have expressed an interest in moving their embassies. These include Honduras, Paraguay, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Moldova, Serbia, and Romania. Paraguay did have its embassy in Jerusalem for four months in 2018, but when Mario Abdo, the grandson of a Lebanese immigrant, was elected president that year, he succumbed to pressure from the P.A., decided to reverse that decision, and moved the embassy back to Tel Aviv.

The most important country on the list of those that might now move their embassy to Jerusalem is Brazil. Both before and after his election, President Jair Bolsonaro declared his intention to make such a move. In mid-December 2019 his son Edoardo in Jerusalem reaffirmed that the Embassy move would come in 2020. It didn’t. Brazil’s President became preoccupied with the coronavirus pandemic; Brazil has the second highest death rate from COVID-19 in the world — but now that same pandemic may lead Bolsonaro to make that long-promised embassy move.

The Brazilians have been impressed with the breakneck speed at which Israel has been vaccinating its own population. But what has captured President Bolsonaro’s imagination is a particular advance in treatment of the virus made by Israeli scientists. His government is placing tremendous hope on an experimental nasal spray, under development in Israel to treat severely ill Covid-19 patients, that Bolsonaro has called a “miraculous product.”

The drug, called EXO-CD24, aims to prevent “cytokine storms,” which are overwhelming immune-system responses to Covid-19 that can cause serious inflammation of the lungs, organ failure and sometimes death.

Initial clinical trials showed that 29 of 30 patients, from moderate to serious symptoms, who used the nasal spray were discharged from the hospital after receiving two to five days of treatment with the drug.

Brazil’s Foreign Minister, Ernesto Araújo, travelled to Israel to meet scientists who are developing the spray, and to find out what has been learned from preliminary tests – the nasal spray is not yet being used in routine patient care. Mr. Bolsonaro’s government says it intends to test the nasal spray on gravely sick patients in Brazil, where more than 260,000 people have died from the virus and where there are close to 2,000 daily deaths.

If the Israeli nasal spray doesn’t deliver what it promises, that is likely the end of the matter. Brazil’s embassy will remain, I assume, in Tel Aviv. But if it turns out indeed to be, as President Bolonsaro claims, a “miraculous product,” that will lift Bolsonaro’s popularity in Brazil, which has been declining, not least because of how he has failed, many believe, to adequately address the pandemic. And he, in turn, will likely choose to express his gratitude – imagine how “muito obrigado” he will feel to those Israeli scientists – in the coin of diplomacy, by moving Brazil’s Embassy to Jerusalem, as he has long promised he would do. And if Brazil, by far the most important country in Latin America, makes that move, others on the short list of Latin American countries that have mentioned moving their embassies in Israel to Jerusalem – the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Haiti (which had had its embassy in Jerusalem until 1980) and even Paraguay — will take note, and one or more possibly follow the mighty example of Brazil.

Should that Israeli drug called EXO-CD24 perform as the first clinical trials suggest, it will prove to be both a medical miracle, and — one hopes — a geopolitical bonanza for Israel, bringing Brazil’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and possibly leading other Latin American countries to follow suit. By the end of 2021, there may be as many as ten countries – out of a likely shortlist of fifteen candidates – that will have their embassies in Jerusalem.

Next year in Jerusalem? Why should those countries have to wait that long?

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