ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 148

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Envoy for Hungary’s Orban will reportedly visit Israel next week, meet Netanyahu

Top Budapest official would be first Hungarian figure to visit Israel since swearing-in of new hardline government, with Netanyahu and Orban long having close ties

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban hold a joint press conference at the Parliament building in Budapest, Hungary on July 18, 2017. (Haim Zach/GPO)
File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban hold a joint press conference at the Parliament building in Budapest, Hungary on July 18, 2017. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is dispatching an envoy to Israel next week for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior officials, according to a Sunday report.

Walla news, citing two Israeli officials, said Gergely Gulyas — who heads the Hungarian prime minister’s office — will also give an address to the Israel Council on Foreign Relations during his stay.

Gulyas will be the first Hungarian official to visit Israel since the swearing-in of the new hardline government, with Netanyahu and Orban long having close ties.

Opponents of the government’s currently frozen plans to overhaul the judicial system have evoked efforts to weaken the judiciary in Hungary, which Orban has sought to shape into an “illiberal democracy.”

Orban’s Fidesz party targeted the country’s courts after being elected to office in 2010, overhauling the constitution and politicizing the courts. The moves are seen as central to that country’s democratic backsliding in recent years.

Netanyahu has long had close relations with Orban, who has been in power since 2010. Their bond has further tightened since Netanyahu’s return to power after the general election in November, with the two showering praise upon each other and looking to further both bilateral ties and their own connection.

Budapest has in recent years been Jerusalem’s staunchest supporter in the European Union, blocking several efforts to issue statements critical of Israeli policies. For instance, in 2020, Hungary was one of the only countries that did not publicly speak out against Israel’s plan, since scuttled, to unilaterally annex swaths of the West Bank.

After Netanyahu’s right-religious bloc won parliamentary elections last year, Orban tweeted: “What a great victory for Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel! Hard times require strong leaders. Welcome back!” He attached a picture of himself holding Netanyahu’s new memoir.

Comparisons between the two countries have again come to the fore as Netanyahu’s new government seeks to advance proposals that would limit the power of Israel’s judiciary, similar to ones pushed by Orban over the past decade in Hungary.

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