Israel declined to join a US-led move to criticize legislation against the LGBT community in Hungary, a senior Foreign Ministry official confirmed on Sunday.
Israel released a statement over the weekend in honor of the Budapest Pride Festival that it “stands in solidarity with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) communities.”
“While celebrating, we remember that the struggle for full equality of LGBTQI+ people is not over,” the embassy stated. “We reject any form of violence, hate, oppression, discrimination, or intolerance against the communities and their members. We are proud to have a thriving LGBTQI+ community in Israel that is reaching out in support of the community in Hungary.”
However, Israel did not join a statement, which a Foreign Ministry official characterized as an "attack on the Hungarian government,” signed by representatives in Hungary of 38 democratic countries in Europe and the English-speaking world criticizing Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government for implementing laws targeting LGBT people.
Hungary cracks down on LGBT books
The statement came after the Hungarian government fined one of the country's largest booksellers for selling British webcomic and graphic novel Heartstopper, about gay teens, without closed wrapping. The government said the sale violates a 2021 "anti-pedophilia" law that bans the dissemination of content depicting homosexuality to minors. The European Commission referred EU member state Hungary to the European Court of Justice over the exercising of the law, which European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has called a "disgrace".
Israel’s avoidance of joining the statement reflects close ties between the countries and its Jerusalem’s reliance on Budapest to block critical EU decisions and statements. Though Hungary usually is not alone in its pro-Israel stance, it is the most willing to buck the norms in Brussels in that regard, as reflected by Hungarian officials’ statements that it plans to open an embassy in Jerusalem at some point.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid called the decision "a moral and ethical disgrace and another failed diplomatic step.
"The Israeli government has been hijacked by an extreme minority of fanatics," he said. "Where are the Likud liberals, until when will you close your eyes?"
The US-led group of countries said that "are concerned with legislation and political rhetoric, including in Hungary, that is in tension with principles of non-discrimination, international human rights law and human dignity, and contributes to stigmatization of the LGBTQI+ community.
"We stress the need for leaders and governments, here and elsewhere, to show respect for and protect the rights of LGBTQI+ individuals and communities, and to eliminate laws and policies that discriminate against them," they stated.
Poland was the only EU member state other than Hungary that declined to join the letter.