Head of BiH Jewish Community: Israeli statement on election reform contradictory

NEWS 09.08.2022 19:37
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Source: N1

According to the head of the Jewish Community in Bosnia, Jakob Finci, the “contradictory” statement in which the Israeli Embassy expressed support for electoral reform based on a model promoted by Bosnian Croat parties is “either the result of successful lobbying or confusion”.

On Monday, the Embassy of Israel issued a memorandum in which it welcomed recent actions taken by BiH institutions to ensure the protection of the Jewish community in the country.

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The embassy, which is based in Tirana, referred to the resolution passed by the Bosnian House of Peoples which supports the working definition of the term anti-Semitism. The resolution was passed at the initiative of Deputy Speaker and leader of the Croat Democratic Union in Bosnia (HDZ BiH), Dragan Covic. The embassy also welcomed a similar decision passed by the Presidency of BiH at the initiative of Bosnian Serb Presidency member, Milorad Dodik.

The embassy also touched upon the issue of electoral reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina, emphasizing the necessity of legitimate representation, implementation of court rulings that refer to the rights of minorities, and welcomed the Election Law changes proposed by Bosnian Croat parties.

It said that, in order to ensure equality and non-discrimination in BiH, it is necessary to ensure “legitimate representation” – a term used by Covic and his political allies in advocating for their specific model for electoral reform.

“In this regard, the Sejdic-Finci case (the ECHR's case treating the rights of minorities in the election process), as well as other judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, have yet to be implemented. Insufficient implementation remains a burden for BiH. In this sense, the readiness and proposals of the Croat side on changes in the electoral law are welcome,” the embassy said.
The case mentioned above was brought before the ECHR by Finci, as well as a representative of the Roma community, Dervo Sejdic. The two successfully sued BiH for not allowing members of any ethnic group apart from the three ‘constituent’ groups – Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats – from running for a seat in the tripartite Presidency.

In his interview for N1, Finci pointed out the “contradictions” in the statement by the Israeli Embassy.

“The paragraphs of the memorandum sent by the Embassy of Israel are somewhat contradictory because at the beginning it says they respect the Dayton Agreement and the Constitution that we have, but that something should still be changed. They mention the verdicts, including in the Sejdic-Finci case, and then add at the end that the proposal made by the Croats, that is HDZ, is acceptable,” Finci said.

He added that this is “probably the result of recent visits by Dragan Covic and Milorad Dodik”.

Covic and Dodik, who are political allies, have recently visited Yad Vashem and expressed support for the state of Israel.

“I assume that what happened was that during these visits there were talks about the problems and that Covic mentioned the Election Law and Dodik expressed support for his views,” Finci said.

He noted that, in the 25 years that BiH has had diplomatic relations with Israel, “no Bosniak politician has officially visited that country.” He argued that Bosniak political representatives probably refrained from making such visits because of “the way it would be perceived” among their voters.

He pointed out that the former leader of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Zlatko Lagumdzija, did visit Israel and that “this was misused against him in the pre-election campaign.”

He also said that it is difficult to determine whether the statement by the Israeli Embassy truly represents the position of the state of Israel because the memorandum arrived at a time when Israel had no government.

“This is either the result of successful lobbying or confusion. We formally have full diplomatic relations with Israel, but we have very poor economic cooperation because there is always a fear of what other friends will say to us if we cooperate with Israel economically,” he added.

Finci also commented on the support Dodik and Covic expressed for Israel regarding the recent conflicts in Gaza, saying that “this is not the first time and not something out of the ordinary.”

“We are very strictly divided here – Bosniaks support the Palestinians, and the other two ethnic groups are against the Palestinians,” Finci said, adding that Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat officials are primarily “against Palestinians”, and that their support for Israel is only secondary.

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