Israel’s Diplomatic Own Goal – Serbia and ‘Kosovo’
Two years ago this month, Israel established diplomatic relations with the self declared republic of ‘Kosovo’. The formalizing of relations with ‘Kosovo’ came about as part of a deal brokered by the United States between Serbia and the so-called republic of Kosovo in September 2020. At the time, the deal was supposed to have been a ‘great breakthrough’ in ending the conflict.
As part of that deal from 2020 between Serbia and ‘Kosovo’, for some reason there was a clause which said that both countries should move their embassies to Jerusalem and that Israel recognize ‘Kosovo’.
Serbia made it clear it would only move its embassy to Jerusalem on condition that Israel did not recognize ‘Kosovo’ as an independent state. Numerous Israeli diplomats such as Arthur Koll also warned Israel strongly against ‘Kosovo’s’ recognition.
The reason Israel originally refused to recognize ‘Kosovo’, was that since ‘Kosovo’s’ declaration of independence in 2008, it had feared a domino effect of the Kosovo scenario in regards to the recognition of the so-called state of Palestine. By recognizing Kosovo, Israel is engaging in a huge double standard.
In doing so, Israel has scored a huge diplomatic own goal. Israel could have cemented an alliance with Serbia, an internationally recognized EU candidate country with a fast growing high tech sector with which it has had traditionally warm relations, that would have moved their embassy to Jerusalem. For more than 12 years after ‘Kosovo’s’ unilateral declaration of independence, Israel refused to recognize it. Why, one must ask, did Israel have this sudden change of policy.
The so-called republic of Kosovo is an entity that declared independence in 2008 from Serbia but is not recognized by the UN or a majority of its member states. It came about as a result of a violent war of secession, helped by a NATO intervention against Serbia in 1999. An intervention which was condemned at the time by the then Israeli foreign minister Ariel Sharon and many other members of the Knesset.
More than 2000 people died as a result of the NATO bombardment of Serbia and Montenegro and another 200,000 Serbs and others had to flee Kosovo as a result of persecution by Kosovo Albanian Muslims during and after the war.
Kosovo, is a place of great spiritual importance for the Serbs that had been at the heart of their medieval kingdom, but was taken over by Ottoman Turks soon after the battle of Kosovo Polje in 1389 and subsequently Islamized. Serbs were gradually replaced by Albanian and other Muslims as the majority population. However, there remained a very significant Serb minority until the war of 1999. Today there are hardly any Serbs left in Kosovo outside of a few enclaves.
Historically the Serbs were a people which had warm relations with Israel and Jews. Serbia, was the first country after Britain to recognize the Balfour Declaration and in the 1930s it had very little anti-semitism compared to other European countries. In the 2nd World War, a lot of Serbs fought alongside and saved many thousands of Jews in underground resistance movements . In fact, they stand in stark contrast to the majority of Kosovo’s Albanians which gladly welcomed the Nazis and collaborated with them in implementing many anti Jewish measures.
Israel’s decision is not merely a political mistake, but a moral one.
Kosovo, for the Serbs, is not merely some outlying province of little significance, it is the spiritual and religious epicentre of Serbian civilization.
It is as important to the Serbs as Jerusalem is to the Jews.
Since the end of the Cold War up until its recent recognition of Kosovo, Israel had tried very hard to foster warm ties with Serbia. Just over two years ago, all that was thrown away. For what, one must ask?
I would like to urge Israel to reconsider this misjudged and ill-thought-out historic error.