Photo Credit: Amos Ben Gershom / GPO
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed his counterpart from the Czech Republic, Andrek Babis, to Jerusalem on his first visit to Israel despite the last-minute cancellation of the intended V4 (Visegard) Summit in the Israeli capital due to Poland’s decision to pull out of the conference.

Netanyahu noted that Babis was arriving just a few months after the visit of his country’s president, who had opened the Czech House in Jerusalem, and expressed appreciation of his country’s support for Israel “through thick and thin.”

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“Your country knows what it means to be a small democracy surrounded by hostile forces much bigger than them fighting for its survival and its freedom. We understand the story of your country and I think your country understands the story of Israel. And that has led to a very close friendship that is repeated again and again by successive visits,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu said Israel would be working on agreements with the Czech Republic in the areas of defense, technology and innovation, “including the question of helping with Israeli expertise to address some of the Czech Republic’s water problems. Today you visited Mobileye. You saw the possibility of combining the well-renowned Czech car industry Škoda with the newfound Israeli technology in autonomous vehicles. And there are many, many other such areas,” he said.

Babis thanked Netanyahu for his “warm welcome” and said the visit was “a big pleasure” for him, noting that many of his colleagues, ministers and presidents had preceded him.

“Israel is our strategic partner in the Middle East. We have excellent cooperation and that is why the Czech Republic is highly interested to continue in consultation between our governments. As you said, and you promised, that we will finally organize this G2G in Prague this year because the last G2G was in Jerusalem in 2016 and it’s high time that we continue in this very concrete cooperation.

“Our mutual trade is doing very well. It’s increasing. We’re selling our Škoda Auto cars here and Tatra. When you finally come to Prague for the G2G I’m sure that we will finalize this acquisition of Israeli mobile air defense radar, which is now in a good way and I’m sure that we will finalize this deal.

“We have discussed very concrete topics in our cooperation. Mainly we are interested in water management and of course we can maybe offer you some expertise in waste management. And also I ask you if you can help us with healthcare, in the area of medical cannabis treatment which is very important. I promised my minister of health and now we are really starting. It’s very important for our citizens with a lot of diseases and this cannabis treatment is important and we would like to welcome your doctors in the Czech Republic and I’m sure they can give us a lot of experience in this field because you are also a leader in this field.

“We discussed cooperation in defense and security and of course I’m impressed by what Israel achieved in R&D, in cybersecurity and also autonomous cars. This morning I visited this company which is really great, Babis said.

He added that he is looking forward to welcoming Netanyahu “personally in Prague this year.”

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