Orban: Israel and Hungary have ‘great results’ in ‘building conservative community’

Right-wing Hungarian PM tweets prognosis after meeting with head of conservative Jewish organization’s Israel branch

File: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban holds a copy of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's memoir on November 3, 2022. (Viktor Orban/Twitter)
File: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban holds a copy of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's memoir on November 3, 2022. (Viktor Orban/Twitter)

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that Hungary and Israel have achieved “great results” in their effort to build a “conservative community.”

“Building a #conservative community is a tough job. But both Hungary and Israel have some great results already. Had the chance today to compare notes with Amiad Cohen on this noble mission,” Orban tweeted Thursday after meeting with the Israel branch head of the Tikvah Fund, a conservative Jewish organization.

Israel has seen its ties with Hungary warm in recent years, thanks in no small part to a meeting of the minds between the right-wing Orban and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 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.

Orban has previously spoke of making Hungary an “illiberal democracy.”

The Tikvah Fund’s Amiad Cohen retweeted Orban’s post and offered thoughts of his own from their meeting.

“The left shouts that [Israel] is turning into Hungary,” Cohen said. “Since public discussion should be in-depth and serious, I decided to go and learn what is happening there. And I had the privilege of meeting Prime Minister Orban for a long conversation. In addition, I met with the heads of research institutes and universities to understand in depth the reforms introduced there.”

“Complex. interesting,” Cohen added.

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.

In August 2021, Orban lamented in an interview with Fox News that Netanyahu’s election loss was a “challenge” for him and praised the Israeli leader as a “good friend” of Hungary. “When he was in power, he always invested a lot of energy in having a good relationship with central European countries,” he said.

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.

In 2020, human rights organizations argued Hungary can no longer be considered a democracy after its parliament approved a bill giving Orban’s government extraordinary powers during the coronavirus pandemic, and setting no end date for them.

Orban has also been criticized for targeting Holocaust survivor and left-wing philanthropist George Soros, a Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor and financier known for his left-wing philanthropy, who he has called a “public enemy” for allegedly backing uncontrolled mass immigration.

Jewish groups in the country condemned Orban’s anti-Soros campaign as antisemitic but despite widespread denunciations, it continued and in 2018 the Soros-founded Central European University was forced to relocate from Budapest.

In 2019, Yesh Atid chair Yair Lapid said that if elected prime minister, he would demand that the Hungarian premier apologize for the “antisemitic campaign” against Soros. Lapid did not end up following through on that promise when he served as premier for the second half of 2022.

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