Hungary's Orban vows 'zero tolerance' for anti-Semitism on Israel visit

Debbie Hill, AFP | Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (left) and Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu make joint statements in Jerusalem on July 19, 2018.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a nationalist whose policies have raised concerns among Jews in his country, said on a visit to Israel on Thursday they should feel safe under his government.


Paying a reciprocal visit to Israel a year after hosting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Budapest, Orban reaffirmed that Hungary would show "zero tolerance" for anti-Semitism.

"All of the Jewish citizens in Hungary are under the protection of the government," Orban said, according to a Hebrew translation of his remarks to reporters in Hungarian at the start of talks with the right-wing Israeli leader.

"We are proud that in Hungary, self-identifying Jews, who celebrate and preserve Jewish tradition can feel safe," he added.

The World Jewish Congress estimates the Jewish population in Hungary at between 75,000 and 100,000.

Last year, Orban raised concerns in Hungary's Jewish community when he praised the country's interwar leader Miklos Horthy, a Hitler ally, and used an image of George Soros, a Jewish US financier and philanthropist of Hungarian origin, in an anti-immigration billboard campaign.

Netanyahu and Orban, who won a third straight term in office last April, have found common cause on the issue of Soros and his support for non-governmental organisations that have criticised their governments’ policies.

‘True friend of Israel'

Netanyahu's embrace of Orban has drawn criticism from Israeli opposition politicians and raised eyebrows in the European Union, where the Hungarian prime minister is regarded as an illiberal maverick.

But greeting Orban on Thursday, Netanyahu called him "a true friend of Israel". 

Netanyahu: 'I want to thank you for defending Israel'

The Israeli leader has sought closer ties with European nations willing to provide strong backing to Israel.

Hungary in December abstained when the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to reject the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

It also joined the Czech Republic and Romania in blocking a European Union statement criticising Washington's decision to move its Israel embassy to Jerusalem.

"You have stood up for Israel time and time again in international forums," Netanyahu said. "It is deeply appreciated, and it is important."

No meeting with Palestinians

Orban said close Israeli-Hungarian ties were due to his "excellent personal relations" with Netanyahu.

"A Hungarian patriot and a Jewish Israeli patriot will always find something in common," Orban said, while his host added that the two leaders “both understand that the threat of radical Islam is a real one”.

>> Watch Europe now: Hungary under Viktor Orban

The Hungarian premier was due to tour the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and meet one of Israel's chief rabbis later Thursday.

He will visit the Western Wall in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem on Friday before departing.

In a break with protocol for EU leaders, who usually meet Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah during such visits, he has no scheduled talks with Palestinian leaders.


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