Bulgaria will not move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Prime Minister Boiko Borissov told the AJC Global Forum 2018, while extolling his country’s close relations with Israel and underlining that as a sovereign state, it has a right to decide which city is its capital.
“The status of Jerusalem as the sacred site of the three monotheistic religions should be agreed in the course of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations that will lead to an accord on final status of the Palestinian territories,” Borissov told the forum, the largest-ever American Jewish advocacy event in Israel.
Two countries have followed Donald Trump’s United States administration in moving their embassies to Jerusalem: Guatemala and Paraguay. Bulgaria’s northern neighbour Romania has said that it would move its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
Addressing the AJC Global Forum 2018, Borissov recalled the successful efforts of his compatriots to rescue the Bulgarian Jews from being murdered in the Holocaust during the Second World War,
and expressed support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“I feel at home and in the company of dear friends,” Borissov told the AJC Global Forum on June 12. “I express my respect for the State of Israel and appreciate its extremely important role regarding the future of the region.”
Bulgaria-Israel relations “are based on clear principles of interaction, on mutual confidence and on shared values. This is the guarantee that our relations go beyond our personal friendship and deepen so that they have a long-term horizon,” Borissov said. “There has never been even one moment over the years when we could not count on each other.”
Borissov, whose country currently holds the Council of the Presidency of the EU, praised Israel for assisting Europe. “Had it not been for Israel, Europe and European civilization would have been in bigger jeopardy in the face of rising radicalism and religious fundamentalism in the Middle East,” he said.
The AJC Global Forum is the signature annual event of AJC, the premier Jewish global advocacy organization. More than 2400 participants, including hundreds of young Jews, from across the United States and 55 other countries are registered for the four-day conference.
Borissov spoke about the efforts of Bulgarian citizens, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and by eminent public figures and intellectuals to “save the entire Bulgarian Jewish community of approximately 50 000” during the Second World War.” This heroic feat was done despite the fact that Bulgaria was allied with Nazi Germany,” he was quoted as saying in an item on the AJC website.
Borissov said that “newly gathered facts confirm that in the years of the Holocaust the Bulgarian consuls in Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and other European states issued some 20 000 transit Bulgarian visas to Jews from Western Europe, including children.”
Borissov thanked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “for his recognition of what the Bulgarians did to save Bulgarian Jewish lives” and announced that two identical monuments – in Sofia and Tel Aviv – will soon be erected “to commemorate this historic fact and express our joint gratitude.”
The prime minister, speaking as head of an EU member state and President of the EU, expressed support for efforts to achieve through negotiations a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“We are convinced that the Jewish people’s relation to Jerusalem is indisputable and are not indifferent to the wish of the Jewish population of Israel and of world Jewry and to the right of Israel, being a sovereign state, to decide which city will be its capital and to insist that it be internationally recognised,” Borissov said.
AJC has been deeply involved with Bulgaria since the late 1980s, after the collapse of the communist regime, advocating for the US-Bulgaria-Israel relationship. Shalom, the umbrella body of Jewish organisations in Bulgaria, is a longstanding AJC international partner.
A delegation from Shalom, led by President Dr Alexander Oscar, is in attendance at the AJC Global Forum. Viktor Melamed serves as the director of AJC’s recently established presence in Bulgaria, AJC’s sixth post in Europe. AJC CEO David Harris, a frequent visitor to Sofia, has been honoured by the Bulgarian government.