Head of the Freedom Party (FPOe) Heinz-Christian Strache (L) and head of the People's Party (OeVP) Sebastian Kurz shake hands at the end of a news conference in Vienna, Austria, December 15, 2017..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Until Israel draws up a clear policy regarding how to deal with the new Austrian government that includes the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ), Jerusalem will deal not with the FPÖ ministers, but rather with the professional echelon in the ministries they control.
According to a coalition agreement agreed upon over the weekend, the FPÖ will get the vice chancellery, as well as five ministries, including the foreign, defense and interior ministries.
Up until now, Israel has maintained a non-engagement policy with the FPÖ because of its Nazi past – it was founded in 1956 by former Nazis – and the antisemitic and racist leanings of some of its members. In 1999, Israel recalled its ambassador to Vienna for more than three years because the party, then headed by Joerg Haider, joined the coalition.
The Foreign Ministry issued a statement after consultations on Monday saying that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu directed the ministry’s director-general Yuval Rotem to formulate a policy on how Israel should deal with the new government.
The ministry said Netanyahu is in direct contact with the new chancellor, Sebastian Kurz.
The statement stressed that Israel wanted to emphasize its “absolute commitment to the struggle against antisemitism and the commemoration of the Holocaust.”
Israel is believed to be waiting to see how other like-minded countries deal with the new government before taking a formal stand.
The Austrian Jewish community, adamantly opposed to the FPÖ, has let it be known that it will not deal with any FPÖ ministers, but rather with the director-general of the ministers that the party controls.