The Knesset plenum .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Likud officials defended their decision on Monday to invite to Israel a figure from the controversial far-right Austrian Freedom Party, which was previously led by the late anti-Semitic politician Jörg Haider.
Channel 1 reported that the Foreign Ministry purposely has no contact with members of the party and was outraged by the decision.
But Likud officials said it is likely that the Freedom Party, currently led by Heinz-Christian Strache, would soon come to power in Austria and that building such ties is important.
“The Oslo [diplomatic] process started with [then deputy foreign minister] Yossi Beilin bypassing the Foreign Ministry, and then their policy changed,” a Likud official said.
“Strache could become the chancellor of Austria and then the Foreign Ministry will chase after him.”
Freedom Party Vienna City Councilman David Lasar, who is Jewish and whose father was connected to the Likud, came to Israel at the Likud’s invitation Monday and met with MKs from the party at the Knesset.
The Likud officials said Strache and his party had become more and more pro-Israel in recent years.
They noted that the party had issued pro-Israel statements at the time of recent operations in the Gaza Strip and following the June 2010 boarding of the Gaza blockade-running ship Mavi Marmara.
Strache wrote an emotional letter to Israel following the June 2014 kidnapping and murder of Gil-Ad Shaer, Naphtali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach.
In the letter, he wrote that he condemned any incidents of anti-Semitism and wanted to “open a new page” of amicable relations with Israel.
“There are still anti-Semitic politicians in the Freedom Party, but there are other parties in Austria with anti-Semitic politicians, and only the Freedom Party is trying to get rid of theirs,” a Likud official said.