Hungary’s controversial Orban to make first trip to Israel next month
search

Hungary’s controversial Orban to make first trip to Israel next month

PM, who is at odds with local Jewish community, hosts Israel’s national security adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat in Budapest, discusses strengthening ties

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban give a joint press conference at the parliament in Budapest, Hungary, on July 18, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE AND POOL / KAROLY ARVAI)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban give a joint press conference at the parliament in Budapest, Hungary, on July 18, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE AND POOL / KAROLY ARVAI)

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban is to visit Israel next month, the Prime Minister’s Office announced on Wednesday.

The announcement came after Orban hosted Israel’s national security adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat in Budapest earlier in the day.

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, the two discussed strengthening bilateral ties between Israel and Hungary and regional issues.

Ben-Shabbat is leading an Israeli delegation slated to meet with the heads of four central European Visegrád states: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.

Under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership, ties with Orban have warmed, prompting criticism from the local Jewish community over the Hungarian prime minister’s attacks on Jewish billionaire George Soros — which critics say toys with anti-Semitic stereotypes — and his past praise for a former Nazi ally.

A year ago, Orban hailed as an “exceptional statesman” the country’s wartime leader and Nazi ally Miklos Horthy, who enacted anti-Jewish laws and under whose watch over half a million Jews were deported to Auschwitz during the Holocaust. Then, he launched and defended a poster campaign targeting the Hungarian-born Soros, accusing him of seeking to flood the country with refugees.

In both cases, Israel’s ambassador to Budapest, Yossi Amrani, initially sided with Hungary’s Jews in criticizing Orban. But at Netanyahu’s behest, Israel later retracted its criticism or accepted the government’s clarifications.

Netanyahu was reportedly the first foreign leader to congratulate Orban on his reelection after his landslide victory in April, in which he led his Fidesz party to win 49.6 percent of the votes.

In that phone call, Netanyahu invited his Hungarian counterpart to visit Israel, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office at the time. The Israeli premier also thanked Orban for “Hungary’s support for Israel in international forums,” the statement said.

Netanyahu met Orban during a four-day official visit to Hungary last July, and similarly praised the Hungarian leader at that time for his support for Israel.

“You’ve done that time and again,” Netanyahu said. “We appreciate this stance, not only because it’s standing with Israel, but it’s also standing with the truth.”

Orban has served as prime minister since 2010. This will be his first visit to Israel.

He has made strident opposition to immigration a central part of his government’s message, along with attacks on Soros, accusing him of seeking to flood the country with refugees and advancing legislation to curb the operation of organizations funded by Soros. Soros denies the accusations and Orban’s critics say the moves against NGOs are designed to restrict space for civil society in Hungary, an EU member state.

Last week the Hungarian parliament adopted a raft of measures against immigrants and those people or organizations who help them.

The laws will bring in a punishment of up to a year in prison for anyone convicted of helping a person who entered Hungary illegally from outside the Schengen zone, and whose life wasn’t in immediate danger.

MPs also approved a change to the the constitution stipulating that no authority is allowed to affect “the make-up of the Hungarian population,” a clause designed to prevent Hungary participating in any EU scheme for mandatory refugee resettlement.

The measures passed Wednesday include a constitutional obligation for all state institutions to “defend Christian culture,” as well as a ban on homeless people spending the night in public spaces.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

read more:
less
comments
more