Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) shakes hands with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (L) during a meeting on June 11, 2018.
(photo credit: OHAD TZVEIGENBERG/POOL)
Sebastian Kurz, the recently ousted Austrian chancellor who will be running to regain this position at the end of September, was scheduled to arrive in Israel Tuesday evening – apparently taking a page out of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s playbook about traveling abroad before an election to underline one’s diplomatic credentials.
Kurz – who lost a no-confidence measure in May after the far-right Freedom Party left his coalitions following a scandal involving its leader, Heinz-Christian Strache – is scheduled to meet Netanyahu on Wednesday. He announced his visit with a tweet, saying that he and his team will travel to Israel to meet Netanyahu and discuss illegal migration, terrorism, the fight against antisemitism and the “regional security situation, in particular regarding Iran.”
This will be Kurz’s second visit abroad in a week, having gone to Berlin last week.
He is also scheduled to meet Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and visit the base of the police’s Counterterrorism Unit during his one day visit, as well as meet with Austrian Holocaust survivors living here.
“Israel is an anchor of stability in this conflict-ridden region in our immediate neighborhood and an important partner for Europe,” he said on Monday, adding that he wants to discuss border security measures and curbing illegal immigration. The refugee crisis is a major electoral issue in Austria.
Kurz emerged as one of Israel’s best friends in Europe, giving pro-Israel speeches, tweeting his support, visiting the Western Wall during a visit, standing up for Israel in various EU forums and developing a close relationship with Netanyahu.
And during a visit to Israel last June, Kurz said Austria was not only a victim of Nazism – as the country widely portrayed itself up until the 1990s – but also a perpetrator of Nazi crimes. As such, he said, the country has a responsibility, not only to its Jews but also to the Jewish state. What was groundbreaking in these words was not acknowledgment of Austria’s crimes during the Holocaust, but saying this gave the country a special responsibility toward Israel.
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