Hungarian FM to Post: Israel should be ‘intensely’ involved in implementation of Geneva deal

Martonyi says Israeli involvement can help stir process in right direction; refutes perception of rising anti-Semitism in Hungary.

November 27, 2013 01:41
3 minute read.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi in Jerusalem.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

Israel, which bitterly opposed the Geneva interim agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, should “intensely and closely” be engaged in monitoring its implementation, Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.

Martonyi met separately with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on Monday – Iran was a key focus of the discussion – and also received a strategic briefing on Israel’s position on the accord from Foreign Ministry officials.

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Martonyi said that while Netanyahu repeated his opposition to the accord, which he has voiced publicly, “at the same time [he] said Israel wants to be engaged and would have been engaged even before if it would have been involved more intensively. But the thing was, and of course we all know, that the negotiations were conducted in a kind of secrecy, and when the Israeli government tried to voice its concerns, maybe it was too late.”

When it comes to implementing and discussing the agreement now, the Hungarian foreign minister indicated, Israel should be intimately and actively involved.

“Israel should be engaged as intensively and closely as possible in the implementation process to contribute in the monitoring, which is a key aspect, to make the process move in the right direction. Abstention in this case would not help,” he said.

Asked what form this Israeli “engagement” could take, Martonyi – who is currently serving his second stint as Hungary’s foreign minister, having held the position from 1998-2002 – said “Israel probably has the best monitoring devices” to follow what was going on inside Iran regarding its nuclear program.

He said the engagement should not only be in the realm of “monitoring,” but also in the political process, and said this type of political engagement was already evident in the phone conversation Netanyahu had with US President Barack Obama on Sunday.

Martonyi, on a two-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, took strong issue with depictions of rising anti-Semitism in his country, saying the phenomenon was exaggerated and an instrument being used by opponents of the government currently led by Viktor Orban – a man many in Europe accuse of having authoritarian tendencies.

If anti-Semitism was as serious as it was being made out to be in Hungary, he asked, why would some 2,000 Israelis opt to study there each year, most of them in medical schools, and why would some 200,000 Israelis visit annually, some of them multiple times each year.

He summarily dismissed the recent findings of a survey by the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency, which indicated that more Jews feared anti-Semitism in Hungary than in any other country in Europe.

Some 90 percent of 517 respondents in Hungary said that anti-Semitism was a problem in the country, and 48% of Hungarian respondents said they considered emigrating because of anti-Semitism.

“This is not true. There is political infighting,” he said. “People tend to forget that there are political forces that are not interested in conveying a true and genuine picture of Hungary; that is part of the political fight.

“Saying that half of the Jews would consider to leave is nonsense, just nonsense,” he continued.

“There are opinion polls and reports of every kind.”

Martonyi said no one was denying that anti-Semitism existed in Hungary, and – in reference to the anti-Semitic, far-Right Jobbik party, the third-largest party in parliament – asserted that it also existed on the “political level.”

But, he said, the phenomenon exists everywhere else in Europe and the world as well. “We must not be shy. We have to face the challenge and fight it, and that is what we are doing.”

He took issue with those arguing that the Orban government had not done enough to delegitimize anti- Semitism, saying that the government had “all sorts of legislation” against anti- Semitism and Holocaust denial. Furthermore, he said, there was close cooperation with the organized Jewish community and various NGOs devoted to the issue of battling anti-Semitism.

“There are many legal devices, and they can [be] and are used,” he said.

“Legally we probably have the strongest instruments in Europe, or among the strongest instruments.”

He said his government had “zero tolerance” for anti-Semitism, had made its position on the matter very clear and reacted strongly whenever “unacceptable statements” were made.

“I would not agree with any kind of suggestion that we tolerate anti-Semitism or do not do enough. It is just the opposite,” he said.

“What I recommend is that people come and have their own experiences, see things with their own eyes.”

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