Why was Israel suddenly involved in the Albanian theft of the Serbian province of Kosovo? To what end?
Serbia, according to reports, was blindsided by Israel’s recognition of an independent Albanian Kosovo; for the Serbian people, it was a gut-punch. Kosovo is their Jerusalem, their ancestral Holy Land.
The Kingdom of Serbia was the first country after the UK to support the resurrection of the Jewish state.
Many around the world, including in Israel, were shocked and remain stunned by Netanyahu’s decision and its implications–which are grievous, and not just to Serbia. Israel has compromised itself badly and has effectively vacated its own principled defenses against Arab “Palestinian” claims to Judea and Samaria, as Michael Freund explains. Moreover, its role looks utterly duplicitous–even if it is the case that it would have been near to impossible for Netanyahu to refuse such a request, assuming one was made, given all Israel has received from the Trump White House. The fact remains, Israel’s recognition of Kosovo is damaging and unconscionable and could have–should have–been vehemently opposed.
Ironically, for President Trump, the implications are no less damaging. With this deal, he repudiates his own vigorous defense of maintaining the international system of nation-states and the rights of sovereign nations to defend their borders from illegal immigration as well as his condemnation of Islamic persecution of Christians: The very reasons Muslim Albanians are now in the majority in Kosovo. Trump has now formally adopted–particularly by bringing in Israel’s recognition of Kosovo–a foreign policy doctrine diametrically opposed to his own: it is that of Merkel, the Clintons (Bill and Hillary), Biden, Kerry, Soros, the EU and the UN. All of whom, it should be noted, have sought to undermine Israel by supporting “Palestinian” and Muslim Brotherhood – Hamas terrorism. All of whom despise President Trump’s foreign policy and are likewise dedicated to his removal from office, if not worse.
One senses a certain cunning behind this dazzling, well orchestrated Pyrrhic victory. Without knowing the details, beyond what has been reported in the press, one can only consider the players involved.
Notably, at this center of all this is the figure of Richard Grenell. Grenell, a career diplomat and former U.S. ambassador to Germany, who previously worked for John Bolton as former US spokesman at the United Nations (from whom he is supposedly estranged as a result of Bolton’s ‘tell-all’ book attacking Trump), appears to be the architect of this debacle. From all appearances, he acted with considerable independence and conferred presidential authority, having artfully secured the deep gratitude and trust of President Trump (and his supporters) by releasing damning documents exposing Oval Office spying against Trump by President Obama during Grenell’s brief tenure as DNI director earlier in the year.
That trust appears to be misplaced.
By MICHAEL FREUND
In a stunning reversal of policy last week, Israel yielded to American pressure and formally recognized the Serbian province of Kosovo as an independent state.While much of the media greeted this development with excitement and even a bit of glee, we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be fooled into thinking that it was a wise decision. It most assuredly was not.
The move was first announced on September 4 by US President Donald Trump in the Oval Office in the presence of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic as well as Avdullah Hoti, the self-styled Prime Minister of Kosovo, during the signing of an economic normalization agreement.It marked a sharp U-turn in the Israeli position.
For more than 12 years, ever since Kosovo illegally and unilaterally declared that it was seceding from Serbia on February 17, 2008, Israel had refused to back an independent Kosovo out of principle, and with good reason.To begin with, Kosovo is part and parcel of Serbia, both legally and constitutionally. To countenance its secession is to interfere in the internal affairs of another country, which is rarely a prudent step. How much more so is this the case in the Balkans, where border disputes, ethnic tensions and complex historical processes only further complicate the situation.
To fully comprehend the sensitivity of the matter, just consider how important the Kosovo issue is to Belgrade, with whom Israel has been cultivating increasingly warm relations in recent years.Put simply, Kosovo is to Serbs what Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria are to Jews: the cradle of the nation, the place where it all began
Over 800 years ago, Kosovo was the heartland of Serbia, and it served as its cultural, spiritual and administrative center until the fateful Battle of Kosovo Polje in 1389, when the Ottoman Turks defeated the Serbs and their allies.
Eventually, Albanian migrants displaced the Serbian residents of the area, and they now constitute the overwhelming majority of Kosovo’s population. But the province’s territory is dotted with ancient Serbian churches, monasteries and monuments.
For Serbs, forgoing Kosovo would be akin to carving out their collective beating heart, a central organ that is vital to their national heritage and identity.Hence, even though Serbia agreed at the White House to boost economic cooperation with Kosovo, they firmly refused to accede to its statehood, standing firm on their right to their ancestral land.
Israeli recognition of Kosovo is an insult to Serbia and it threatens to cast a shadow over the improved relations between the two countries. It also sets a dangerous precedent that could easily be turned around and used against the Jewish state. After all, if Kosovars can unilaterally split apart Serbia to create their own country, why can’t Palestinians in Judea or Israeli Arabs in the Galilee do the same?
Kosovo has sought to justify its demand for independence much in the same way that the Palestinians have: by invoking the right to self-determination. But where this right begins and ends in international relations is of course a thorny and perilous issue. Indeed, just what exactly are its limits? For example, as a matter of principle, could residents of Brooklyn claim to be a unique nation with their own history, geography, cuisine and even accent, and seek to break away from the US and form their own country? Or how about Catalonians in Spain, Corsicans in France, or Scots in the United Kingdom, many of whom would like to establish independent nations?
If every ethnic minority were permitted to exercise the right to self-determination, it would spark an endless round of chaos across the globe.
Over the years, by opposing Kosovar independence as a matter of principle, Israel could reasonably argue that it was upholding a consistent position, one that upheld the inviolability of sovereign borders. But after recognizing Kosovo, that consistency is now a thing of the past.
To be sure, the agreement announced last week is not without benefit to Israel, as both Serbia and Muslim-majority Kosovo have committed to opening embassies in Jerusalem, further strengthening the international legitimacy of the Holy City’s status as the capital of the Jewish state. Vucic and Hoti also agreed to outlaw the Hezbollah terrorist movement.And coming just weeks after the announcement regarding the agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, it lends an air of progress to changes underway in this part of the world.
But the fact remains that this has come at a very high price. As Arthur Koll, Israel’s former ambassador to Serbia, told The Media Line, “We’re not connected to the Balkan conflict, and we’re not supposed to be.”“I’m not sure it’s in Israel’s interest to get mixed up in this deal,” Koll said, adding, “We’re paying a price by surrendering a principle of ours, a long-standing policy. It’s a step that might have future repercussions for the Israel-Palestinian conflict.”
By recognizing Kosovo, Israel dealt a blow to its relations with Serbia, undermined its own position on Palestinian self-determination and inserted itself into a dispute where it does not belong. Rather than embracing Kosovo, Israel should be cultivating ties with Serbs, with whom Jews have a long and shared history of friendship and mutual respect.
Sadly, with elections in the US less than two months away, and Washington’s need to register foreign policy successes, politics have once again triumphed over principle.
The writer, who served as deputy communications director in the Prime Minister’s Office under Benjamin Netanyahu during his first term, is president of the Israel Serbia Friendship Association.
“We outwitted three big Jewish organizations” – Manipulating Jewish public opinion to win support for Anti-Semites and Islamic Extremists in Bosnia, and Croatia | James Harff, Director of Ruder Finns’s Global Public affairs section