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Bennett congratulates new Austrian Chancellor Nehammer, invites him to Israel

Two leaders hold first call, vow to maintain close relations between Jerusalem and Vienna

Austria's Chancellor Karl Nehammer speaks with the media at an EU Summit at the European Council building in Brussels, on December 16, 2021. (Kenzo Tribouillard, Pool Photo via AP)
Austria's Chancellor Karl Nehammer speaks with the media at an EU Summit at the European Council building in Brussels, on December 16, 2021. (Kenzo Tribouillard, Pool Photo via AP)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett held a call with new Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer on Thursday.

Bennett congratulated Nehammer on assuming office on December 6, and thanked him for Austrian support for Israel in the international arena, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

Thursday’s call appeared to be the first direct conversation between the two leaders since Nehammer took office.

They discussed the Omicron COVID-19 variant and vowed to continue close cooperation between Austria and Israel.

Bennett invited Nehammer to visit Israel once the Omicron outbreak wanes.

Nehammer is a conservative former soldier who was appointed by the country’s conservatives to calm the waters in Austria after a corruption investigation into former leader Sebastian Kurz.

Kurz stepped down in October in an effort to defuse a government crisis, triggered by prosecutors’ announcement that he was a target of the corruption investigation.

Nehammer is an immigration hardliner and appointed new leading ministers upon taking office, but vowed to “hold the line” when it came to the People’s Party’s conservative views on migration and security.

The 49-year-old rose the ranks in the military before leaving to work in political communications and pursue a career in the People’s Party.

Rising through the ranks as a “loyal soldier,” he worked in several key positions and secured the support of the party in the party’s stronghold region of Lower Austria.

In early 2020, he became interior minister and his department received some criticism for its response to the jihadist terror attack that hit Vienna in November of that year.

Kurz enjoyed warm relations with Israel’s former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and credited him for helping him realize, relatively early in the coronavirus pandemic, the need to ratchet up measures to try to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Kurz’s government had also been broadly supportive of Israel on the international stage. In May, amid the fighting between Israel and the Hamas terror group in Gaza, the Israeli flag flew on Austria’s Federal Chancellery building, and Kurz assigned clear blame to Hamas for the violence.

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