Croatia–Israel relations

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Croatia–Israel relations
Map indicating locations of Croatia and Israel


Diplomatic Mission
Croatian embassy in Tel Aviv Israeli embassy in Zagreb
Pjer Šimunović Zina Kalay Kleitman

Croatia–Israel relations refer to the bilateral relationship between Croatia and Israel. Full diplomatic relations among two countries were established on April 9, 1997 following Croatia's independence from SFR Yugoslavia. Croatia has an embassy in Tel Aviv and honorary consulates in Ashdod, Caesarea, Jerusalem and Kfar Shmaryahu. Israel has an embassy in Zagreb.[1]

Both counties are members of United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, World Trade Organization, Union for the Mediterranean and many other international organisations.

The Jewish community of Croatia[edit]

The Jewish community of Croatia dates back to at least the 3rd century, although little is known of the community until the 10th and 15th centuries.

The community that had approximately 20,000 members, many of whom have contributed to the development of the Croatian economy, science and culture throughout the states history, until the beginning of World War II was almost completely destroyed during the Holocaust that took place on the territory of the nazi puppet state, so-called Independent State of Croatia (NDH). During the war many Jews were given refuge by the anti-Nazi resistance movement Yugoslav Partisans, led by the Croat Josip Broz Tito, and many of them fought along their side. 115[2][3] Croats were honored with the title Righteous Among the Nations. After the World War II half of the survivors choose to settle in Israel while an estimated 2,500 of them continued to live in Croatia.

Today there are 8 synagogues with its Jewish organizations in Zagreb, Rijeka, Osijek, Split, Dubrovnik, Čakovec, Daruvar and Slavonski Brod.[4]

Croatian Jews in Israel[edit]

Some people of Croatian Jewish descent make one of the smaller Yugoslav Jewish communities in Israel.

Relations with SFR Yugoslavia[edit]

While Croatia was member of the Yugoslavia Federation (1943-1991) it established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1948 through the Federation. Until 1952, a total of 7,578 Jews emigrated from Yugoslavia to Israel in a series of five emigration waves. At first, Yugoslavia was mostly neutral in the Arab-Israeli conflict but maintained ties with Israel. Considering that Yugoslavia, which was stretched between the NATO and the Warsaw Pact during the Cold war, was a leader of the third bloc called Non-Aligned Movement and that President Tito maintained close relations with Arab leaders because most Arab country's were members of the Movement, especially with Gamal Abdel Naser, Yugoslavia severed all diplomatic relations with Israel in 1967 after Israel attacked Egypt in the Six-Day War.[5][6][7] After Tito's death in May 1980 the separate republics slowly began to pursue their own foreign policies in relation to Israel. Croatia sided with SR Slovenia and SR Serbia in their pro-Israeli policy.[8][9]

Relations during the Croatian War of Independence[edit]

After the breakup of Yugoslavia occurred as a result of a series of political upheavals and conflicts during the early 1990s right-wing politician President Franjo Tuđman rose to power in, on October 8, 1991, newly formed Republic of Croatia. Israel has complained about the attitude that Tuđman presented in his book "The Wastelands of Historical Reality", more specifically in the chapter entitled "The history of the multiplication of war crimes and the creation of the Jasenovac and Bleiburg myth" in which he questioned the number of people killed in Jasenovac concentration camp considering that the number was from 30,000 to 40,000, unlike much higher figures presented by the Yugoslav authorities which emphasized a range between 350,000 and 800,000.[10] The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, D.C. presently estimates that the Ustaša regime murdered between 77,000 and 99,000 people in Jasenovac between 1941 and 1945, out of which 12,000 to 20,000 were Jews.[11] The Jasenovac Memorial Site quotes a similar figure of between 80,000 and 100,000 victims.[12] Tuđman was also writing about the cooperation of some Jewish inmates with Nazi supervisors in Jasenovac, which he based on the memoirs written by the Croatian Communist Ante Ciliga who spent a year as a prisoner in Jasenovac.

President Tuđman's letter to the President of the World Jewish Congress[edit]

Tuđman sent letter to the President of the World Jewish Congress Edgar Bronfman on January 16, 1992 saying among other:

"I am addressing you on behalf of Croatia, currently the youngest European state, but a state with a centuries-long tradition of statehood. At the referendum, the overwhelming majority of Croatian citizens chose to live henceforth in the independent Republic of Croatia, a democratic state assuring all its citizens equal rights, regardless of religious, national or political and other affiliations, and regardless of ancestry or social status. The Croatian people wish to achieve the basic right of every nation to self-determination. I sincerely hope that the Jewish people will show understanding and support our efforts, which are almost identical with the long-standing struggle of the Jewish people to realize their national right to statehood, a right affirmed by the world in 1948. when the state of Israel was proclaimed. As in most European countries, the Croatian Jewish community suffered tragic losses during the war. About three hundred thousand Croatian citizens fell in the Anti-Fascist struggle and as victims of Fascism and Nazism. The Ustasha regime of the Independent State of Croatia committed countless war crimes and crimes against humanity. On the other hand, a vast number of Croats – myself among them – took up arms against the Ustasha reign of terror and the Nazi and Fascist occupation. We deeply regret the fact that the Jewish people in Croatia suffered the tragic fate of the Holocaust. However, the Croatian people showed solidarity with the victims of the Ustasha regime. A wonderful example of solidarity with the persecuted Jews was the action of the school youth of Zagreb. Brought together at the stadium where young Jews were to be singled out, all their Croatian fellow students stepped out to join them. As a historian, I have devoted many pages of my books to the analysis of the horrors of violence suffered by the Jewish people in recent history. To my great regret, parts of my book „Wastelands of historical reality“ have been misinterpreted either as historical revisionism or as anti-semitism. As a former anti-fascist fighter and a committed democrat, I refute all intentions of the kind. The Constitution of the Republic of Croatia and the Constitutional Law on Ethnic Communities and National Minorities guarantee the comprehensive development and progress of minorities and citizens, and their complete protection. The Jewish community in Croatia will continue to enjoy, as it has in the past, all the religious and national rights enjoyed by other communities, and this is also evinced by the initiative taken by the Croatian Government and myself to rebuild the Zagreb Synagogue. I am convinced that the friendship between the Croatian and Jewish people will contribute to the building of a new and better world."[13][14]

Despite these disagreements Israel recognized Croatia as an independent and sovereign state on April 16, 1992, but still refused to start further bilateral cooperation.[15]

Criticism of the Israeli policy toward Croatia[edit]

This Israeli policy has been heavily criticized by Igor Primorac, professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In his texts Israel and Genocide in Greece and Israel and the War in the Balkans he wrote: "Since the beginning of the disintegration of Yugoslavia, Israel’s political establishment has taken a pro-Serbian stand. Facts that Israel had an embassy in Belgrade since October 1991 and that Serbia was the first among Yugoslavia's successor states to open the embassy in Israel (though ambassador Budimir Košutić will never submit his credentials to the President of Israel due to the UN Security Council sanctions imposed on Belgrade) are just confirming that. Both Israeli public and the press itself as Yad Vashem refused to recognize crimes that Serbs committed in Croatia during the Croatian War of Independence, which is the first case of genocide in Europe since the Holocaust."[16]

Establishment of diplomatic relations[edit]

Israeli embassy in Chromos Tower, Zagreb

In August 1997, Israel and Croatia published a joint statement of their intention to establish diplomatic relations after several months of negotiations. Secret talks between the Foreign Ministry Director General, Eitan Bentsur, and the head of the office of President Tuđman, Hrvoje Šarinić, were held in Budapest. Full diplomatic relations were established on September 4, 1997 after the Croatian government issued a statement apologizing for the crimes commitied by Ustaše in NDH while President Tuđman promised to publish a modified version of his book.[17][18] Croata opened its embassy in Tel Aviv, while Israel was represented in Croatia through its embassy in Vienna until 2005.

President Tuđman sought to visit Israel but still has been rejected. The first senior Croatian official to visit Israel was Foreign minister Mate Granić in May 1998 who made a state visit after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invited him.[18][19]

President Tuđman was still hoping to visit Israel to apologize for crimes committed by some of his people during the Holocaust but regardless his noble intentions he never did because of his sudden death in 1999.[20]

Croatian producer Branko Lustig said on March 4, 2015 in an interview for the Slovenian television that he first met President Tuđman on Zagreb premiere of the film Schindler's List in 1994. He said that Tuđman grabbed his hand at one point while they were watching the movie. Lustig looked up to him and saw him crying. He said that he thought to himself: "Someone who is crying over the fate of these [Jewish] people cannot be a bad man."[21]

Croatian historian Slavko Goldstein said in an interview for Jutarnji list that he asked for an audience with President Tuđman when he saw a film about Bruno Bušić that was pro-Ustasha intoned in the early 1990s. Goldstein said that Tuđman at one point during the meeting banged the table and shouted: "Slavko, as long as I'm here, pro-Ustasha policy will not pass."[21]

Relations in 21st century and state visits[edit]

After the death of President Tuđman Israel began with active bilateral cooperation with Croatia. In February 2000 Israel sent a delegation to the inauguration of President Stipe Mesić.

In January 2001 the two countries mutually abolished visas.

In October 2001 Stipe Mesić visited Israel and apologized for the crimes of Ustaše and NDH against the Jews. He also visited Israel in October 2009.

Moshe Kastav visiting Croatia[edit]

First Israeli president that visited Croatia was Moshe Katsav in July 2003. In his speech to the Croatian Parliament he said: "Israel appreciates Croatian Partisans and other Croatian freedom fighters who fought against fascism in Croatia during the Second World War. These fighters serve to honor to the Croatian people and are an important national value for the young generation." During his visit President Katsav met with the Speaker of the Croatian Parliament Zlatko Tomčić, Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Račan and representatives of the Croatian Jewish Community. He also visited Dubrovnik and Memorial center in Jasenovac.[22][23][24]

In March 2004 three Croatian ministers visited Israel- Foreign Minister Miomir Žužul, Minister of Science, Education and Sports Dragan Primorac and Minister of Agriculture Petar Čobanković.[25]

Israeli embassy in Croatia[edit]

On September 8, 2005, Israel opened its embassy in Zagreb. The first ambassador of Israel who dwelt in Zagreb was Shmuel Meirom.

Amos Oz visiting Zagreb[edit]

Israeli writer Amos Oz visited Croatia on March 18, 2011 and said in his speech in front of the gathered Croatian audience:

"I will reveal you a secret that no one knows, not even my wife. We have been in Croatia for only 24 hours now and I am already completely in love with this beautiful country. I've traveled a lot in my life, my books have been published in many countries and translated into many languages, I was talking in front of large auditoriums, met crowds of people which loved my books, met with the very knowledgeable readers and performed before a full auditorium of erudite but I can't remember that I was loaded with so much attention on every single step anywhere as here in Croatia. Also, I can't remember that I ever received so much cordial warmth as from my Croatian audience. Both Croatia and Israel have been the victims of oppression and persecution in the past. These terms are not foreign to Croats and Israelis. Israel is a strange country, in some ways unique. Other countries were born out of history, geography, politics and demographics. Israel is perhaps the only country in the world that was born from a dream. Israeli society is wonderful because it is argumentative. Israel is a country of debate. You will not find two Israelis that agree about anything, in fact, it is hard to find one that agree with himself, because all people are ambivalent divided mind and soul. People told me that its very similar in Croatia, that it has more parties than individuals just like Israel. I think that we both have this tendency to discuss a lot. To those who do not agree with this I am here now ready to discuss it."[26]

Ivo Josipović vising Israel[edit]

On February 15, 2012 President Ivo Josipović apologized for all crimes that were committed during World War II within the NDH by the Ustaše regime.[27] President Josipović said: "I stand before the Parliament of the State of Israel, and more importantly, I stand before the Croatian children, and without ambiguity, I apologize. Holocaust survivors and all the other victims I beg for your forgiveness."

Croatian president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović with Israeli president Reuven Rivlin during her official visit to Israel, July 2015

Kolinda Grabar Kitarović visiting Israel[edit]

On July 22, 2015 President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović visited Israel. She stated in Yad Vashem: "As president of Croatia, I express my deepest regret to all the victims of the Holocaust that were killed by the hands of the collaborationist Ustasha regime during World War II. I deeply sympathize with your pain and suffering. The Ustasha regime most definitely was not a reflection of the true desire of the Croatian people for an independent state. Unfortunately, they have manipulated with that desire. Croats must face with and accept its past because of the future. The vast majority of the Croatian people, including my grandparents, were part of the anti-fascist resistance movement, one of the proportionately largest resistance movements in occupied Europe during the World War II. I am grateful to those who put us [Croats] on the right side of history. Croatia is based on anti-fascism and the Croatian War of Independence." Croatian director Branko Lustig also visited Israel with the President Grabar-Kitarović. He gave away his Oscar which he won for the film Schindler's List to the Yad Vashem.[28]

Economic relations[edit]

Economic cooperation between Croatia and Israel is good and increasing. In 2014, Croatia exported to Israel goods worth $33.3 million[29] and imported from it goods worth $22.4 million.[30]

In 2011 35,000 Israeli tourists visited Croatia, but it is believed that this number is much higher because many Israelis do not use their Israeli passports but of another state whose citizenship they also have. Croats are common pilgrims in Israel.[31][32][33]

Israeli investors have invested hundreds of millions of dollars intro Croatia so far. Two main projects of Israeli investors are Project Teva-Pliva worth $200 million[34] and Project golf park in Dubrovnik.

Croatian Israeli Business Club is a Croatian organization whose main goal is enhancement and promotion of business relations between Croatia and Israel.[35]

Country comparison[edit]

 Croatia  Israel
Population 4,284,889 8,238,300
Area 56,594 km2 (21,851 sq mi) 20,770 km2 (8,019 sq mi)
Population density 75.8/km2 (196.3/sq mi) 387.63/km2 (1,004.00/sq mi)
Capital Zagreb Jerusalem (disputed)
Largest city Zagreb – 790,017 Jerusalem – 890,428 (disputed)
Government Parliamentary republic Parliamentary republic
Official languages Croatian Hebrew and Arabic
Main religions Christianity (91.06%), Islam (1.47%), Others (7.47%) Judaism (75.4%), Islam (16.9%), Christianity (2.1%), Others (6%)
Ethnic groups Croats (90.4%), Serbs (4.4%), Others (5.2%) Jews (74.9%), Arab (20.7%), Others (4.3%)
GDP (nominal) USD$ 59.911 billion (USD$ 13,994 per capita) USD$ 305.707 billion (USD$ 38,004 per capita)
Military expenditures USD$ 830,000,000 (1.37% of GDP) USD$ 23,200,000,000 (7.6% of GDP)
Military Troops 16,550 176,500
English Speakers 62% 84.97%
Labour Forces 1,715,000 3,493,000

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "2BackToHomePage3". Retrieved 2016-02-19. 
  2. ^ "Statistics - The Righteous Among The Nations". Yad Vashem. Retrieved 2016-02-19. 
  3. ^ "Još četvero Hrvata proglašeno Pravednicima među narodima -". 2016-01-27. Retrieved 2016-02-19. 
  4. ^ "The Jewish guide to Croatia". LikeCroatia. Retrieved 2016-02-19. 
  5. ^ "Пројекат Растко: Jovan Ćulibrk : The State of Israel and its Relations with the Successor States of the Former Yugoslavia during the Balkan Conflict in 1990s and in its Aftermath". Retrieved 2016-02-19. 
  6. ^ Jacob Abadi, Israel and the Balkan States, op. cit. 299
  7. ^ Vladimir Petrović, Jugoslavija stupa na Bliski Istok – Stvaranje jugoslovenske bliskoistočne politike 1946-1956 [Yugoslavia Steps Into the Middle East – The Emergence of Yugoslav Middle East Policy 1946-1956], Institut za savremenu istoriju, Beograd, 2007
  8. ^ Jacob Abadi, Israel and the Balkan States
  9. ^ Paul Benjamin Gordiejew, Voices of Yugoslav Jewry, State University of New York Press, New York, 1999, p. 378
  10. ^ Ramet, Sabrina P. (2011). Serbia and the Serbs in World War Two. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0-230-27830-2.
  11. ^ "Holocaust Encyclopedia: Jasenovac". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
  12. ^ "Jusp Jasenovac - Jasenovac Memorial Site". Retrieved 2016-02-19. 
  13. ^ "Cable: 92ZAGREB66_a". Retrieved 2016-02-19. 
  14. ^ "Tuđman lobirao kod Židova: Ustaše su počinili mnoge zločine - Več". Retrieved 2016-02-19. 
  15. ^ "MVEP • Datumi priznanja". Retrieved 2016-02-19. 
  16. ^ Igor Primoratz, Israel and Genocide in Croatia
  17. ^ "Prvi Izraelski Veleposlanik U Hrvatskoj Predao Vjerodajnice". Retrieved 2016-02-19. 
  18. ^ a b "Peres: Moj Izrael i Hrvatska zajedno mogu puno toga dobrog učiniti". 2010-07-23. Retrieved 2016-02-19. 
  19. ^ "Izraelski predsjednik Moshe Katsav u Hrvatskom saboru - Vijesti". 2003-11-07. Retrieved 2016-02-19. 
  20. ^ "Israel and Croatia Announce Diplomatic Relations". 1997-08-21. Retrieved 2016-02-19. 
  21. ^ a b "Lustig: Tuđman je zaplakao zbog sudbine Židova". 2015-03-04. Retrieved 2016-02-19. 
  22. ^ "Izraelski predsjednik Moshe Katsav u Hrvatskom saboru - Vijesti". 2003-11-07. Retrieved 2016-02-19. 
  23. ^ "Izraelski predsjednik Moshe Katsav u Dubrovniku - Vijesti". 2003-12-07. Retrieved 2016-02-19. 
  24. ^ "Mesić: Posjet Katsava ojačat će veze Hrvatske i Izraela - Vijesti". 2003-11-07. Retrieved 2016-02-19. 
  25. ^ "Izrael do kraja godine otvara veleposlanstvo u Zagrebu - Vijesti". 2004-09-27. Retrieved 2016-02-19. 
  26. ^ "Amos Oz u Zagrebu: Hrvati se, baš poput Izraelaca, vole svađati". 2011-03-20. Retrieved 2016-02-19. 
  27. ^ "Josipović se ispričao za zločine nad Židovima: Molim preživjele žrtve holokausta za oprost". 2012-02-15. Retrieved 2016-02-19. 
  28. ^ "Duboko se kajem za zločine ustaša, i moja obitelj se borila protiv fašizma". 2015-07-22. Retrieved 2016-02-19. 
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^ "11.07.2003. - Zagreb | Predsjednik Republike Hrvatske 2000-2010". (in Croatian). Retrieved 2016-02-19. 
  32. ^ "Hrvati sve manje putuju u Tunis, Egipat i Izrael - Rijeka / Novi list". (in Croatian). Retrieved 2016-02-19. 
  33. ^ "Iz Izraela bi u Hrvatsku moglo stići i 100.000 turista - Več". Retrieved 2016-02-19. 
  34. ^ "Izraelska Teva novi vlasnik Plive". 2008-07-18. Retrieved 2016-02-19. 
  35. ^ "CIBC Mission « CIBC | Croatian-Israeli Business Club". Retrieved 2016-02-19. 

External links[edit]