Senior Romanian right-wing politician George Simion, met on Monday with Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council, and Israel's Ambassador to Romania Reuven Azar. Israel hasn't always been willing to communicate with extreme-right wing European politicians, yet there are those in the Likud Party who see this as a strategic opportunity.
Together, Simion, Dagan, and Azar publicly acknowledged Romania's role in the Holocaust and pledged to combat antisemitism. Furthermore, Simion expressed unequivocal support for the Jewish people's historical right to "inhabit and construct settlements in Judea and Samaria, regions with deep Jewish historical roots," according to a statement on behalf of Dagan.
A landmark shift in Israeli approach to far-right European parties
This landmark announcement from the AUR Party (The National Liberal Party), which polls suggest may form the next Romanian government, signifies a major shift in European Union politics. Dagan's efforts in this transformative diplomacy were evident, starting with an informal meeting between him and Simion in January. Their discussions have now culminated in this official statement after more than six months of deliberation, all undertaken with the approval of Foreign Minister Eli Cohen.
In January 2022, Likud MKs were instructed to have nothing to do with the Romanian AUR Party on the grounds that it is antisemitic. Then-Likud foreign affairs director and spokesman Eli Hazan wrote to all of the party’s lawmakers, “AUR was elected to the parliament and is growing in popularity, in part because it is anti-establishment and opposes vaccines and restrictions. This party is antisemitic,” he warned.
According to a statement by the AUR, "the leader of the AUR Party acknowledged the responsibility of Romania for the Holocaust of the Romanian Jews, in the territories controlled by Romania during World War II, and expressed his deepest regret." He specified that "such horrors should never happen again to Jews, Romanians, Romani, or any other nations of the world."
Simion added that every country, including Romania, should adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism "and teach, within national history subject, this important page of the past, in order to make sure that all the future generations will know and understand the lack of humanity of those times and why it is vital to avoid such horrors."
The statement added that as Orthodox Christians, "Romanians have a powerful connection with the Holy Land and Jerusalem, the heart of Judaism and Christianity."
According to the statements by both parties, "the parties discussed and agreed also about the historical right of the Jewish people to build and live in communities and cities in Judea and Samaria, the cradle of the history of the Jewish people since the days of the Bible."
In addition, "all the parties agreed that sovereignty is vital for both Israel and Romania and no other country should claim a right upon their territories. Therefore, pursuant to this sovereignty, each country has its right to determine its capital and its laws, within its borders, and all other countries should respect them."
Dagan's pivotal role in these talks was supported by Michael Kleiner, former Knesset member and current president of the Likud's court and foreign relations officer.
Polls project the AUR to perform strongly in the upcoming parliamentary elections in June 2024 and the presidential race in September 2024.
In a bid to further strengthen ties, Dagan invited Simion and the AUR delegation to visit Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. Simion graciously accepted, expressing his eagerness to visit these significant regions. Commenting on the development, Dagan remarked, "Our relentless fight against BDS and antisemitism continues. We value allies like George Simion, who are committed to combating anti-Semitism and supporting Israel's strategic interests." He added that Romania's stance could be a turning point in EU policies towards Israel amidst challenges from international pressures and BDS campaigns.
Former MK Michael Kleiner weighed in, emphasizing AUR's sincere friendship to Israel and the importance of recognizing such steadfast allies in Europe. He lauded the party's genuine stance against anti-Semitism and its commitment to Holocaust education, refuting opposing claims as unfounded.
In 2022, the AUR Party said the Holocaust is a “minor topic,” and teaching it as a separate subject in schools is an “ideological experiment” and part of a “systematic action to undermine the quality of education in Romania.” Then Israeli ambassador David Saranga condemned AUR’s statements, calling them “insulting.”