Controversial Hungarian prime minister Orban to visit Israel in July

The visit will take place from July 18-20, a year after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Budapest.

July 1, 2018 10:39
2 minute read.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban addresses supporters.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban addresses supporters after the announcement of the partial results of parliamentary election in Budapest, Hungary, April 8, 2018. (photo credit: BERNADETT SZABO / REUTERS)


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Hungary’s right-wing, anti-immigrant prime minister, Viktor Orban, will visit Israel in mid-July, the Foreign Ministry announced on Sunday.

The visit will take place from July 18-20, a year after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Budapest.

Netanyahu was criticized then for his ties with Orban, a fierce critic of the EU’s immigration policies and a man critics accuse of having authoritarian leanings.

Netanyahu’s visit to Budapest to attend a summit of the leaders of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia triggered criticism in Israel because it came in the midst of an anti-immigrant billboard campaign by the Hungarian government, which many felt had antisemitic overtones because it used the image of George Soros.
Hungary's anti-immigrant leader Orban wins a third term, April 9, 2018 (Reuters)

Soros, the Hungarian-born Jewish financier, is a harsh critic of Orban’s government. He is also a harsh critic of Israeli policies.

Netanyahu also came under fire for meeting Orban last year – a trip that marked the first time a sitting Israeli prime minister had visited Hungary since the country emerged from Communist rule in 1989 – because just weeks before the meeting, the Hungarian leader praised Miklos Horthy, who was the Hungarian leader during World War II when 600,000 of the country’s 800,000 Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.

Both Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Meretz head Tamar Zandberg have already come out against Orban’s scheduled visit.

Lapid told Israel Radio last Thursday that Orban characterized Horthy – who “murdered my grandparents in Hungary” – as a great leader, and said it was “worrisome” Netanyahu was turning Israel into the best friends of these European regimes.

Zandberg wrote that the Hungarian Jewish community is concerned about Orban’s policies, and that Israel should not be giving him legitimacy.

Netanyahu invited Orban to Israel during a congratulatory call, after the Hungarian leader won a third consecutive term in April.

During that call, Netanyahu thanked Hungary for its support in international forums.

Among EU countries, Hungary has consistently abstained rather than vote against Israel. It abstained in December in the UN General Assembly vote condemning the US for moving its embassy to Jerusalem; in May when the UN Human Rights Commission voted to establish an investigative committee into the violence along the Gaza border; and earlier this month, when the UN General Assembly condemned the Gaza violence and passed a resolution calling for protection of the Palestinian civilian population.

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