BUCHAREST, Romania (JTA) — Romania supports in principle Israel’s demand for Palestinian recognition of Israel as the Jewish state but encourages compromises on this and other issues, Romanian President Traian Basescu said.
Speaking to JTA at his presidential palace two days before an Israel visit that began Sunday, Basescu said that “if they [the Palestinians] want peace, they must follow the request of the Israeli people.”
Yet when asked whether Israel should condition progress in peace talks on Palestinian compliance, he said, “Well, all of us must be wise. Of course, compromises are needed because otherwise we won’t find the solution and here maybe [late Israeli prime minister Ariel] Sharon is an example.”
Basescu, whose second and final term in office will end this year, landed in Israel on Sunday for his second presidential visit there. He said his objectives for the visit were to consolidate progress in bilateral relations with Israel and relations with Romanian-speaking Israelis, who number approximately 500,000, according to the president.
Israel under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has demanded the Palestinian Authority recognize Israel as the Jewish state as a means of guaranteeing that an agreement on the partition of land would end all territorial claims.
Basescu compared the situation to Romania’s recognition of the Republic of Moldova as the homeland of the Moldavian people, despite the presence of a large contingent of Moldovans who consider themselves Romanians.
“Even in Europe, we fully support the idea that each person must assume his national belonging,” he said. “For example, in order to be more clear, we have the Republic of Moldova, which was part of Romania before World War II. But in Moldova, there are people who [consider] themselves as being Romanians as well as people who [consider] themselves as being Moldavian. We recognize the right of both to be what they want to be.
“The same situation [applies to] our relations with Israel and we’ll always support the idea that if the Israelis want to be declared as a Jewish state, they must be recognized [as such].”
He noted that Romania has “excellent relations with the Arab world, credible relations. Especially with the Palestinians.” He added that “a lot of Palestinians were educated here. We have a relation of trust with the Palestinians. And on my visit I will also visit the Palestinian Authority.”
According to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Romania is the only former Soviet country to have maintained diplomatic relations with Israel after 1967. Romania also recognized the 1988 first unilateral declaration of independence by the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
But Basescu said Romania “took a step back” from this position in 2011, when it abstained in a vote at the United Nations General Assembly on upgrading the Palestinian Authority’s status.