Hadash and leading Communist Party member Dov Khenin (Joint List) protested on Wednesday, July 18, the current official visit to Israel by Hungary’s Prime Minister Victor Orban, censuring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his embrace of the racist European political leader who once praised a former Nazi ally. Orban arrived in Israel early on Wednesday evening.
Earlier this week, Israel’s Ambassador to Hungary Yossi Amrani told the Hungarian television channel ATV that “Hungary and Israel are allies, partners and friends.”
Under Netanyahu’s far-right leadership, Israel’s ties with Orban have warmed, prompting criticism from the Hungarian Jewish community. A year ago, Orban hailed as an “exceptional statesman” the country’s wartime leader and Nazi ally Miklós Horthy, who enacted anti-Jewish laws and under whose watch over half a million Jews were deported to Auschwitz during the Holocaust. Subsequently, Orban launched and defended a poster campaign targeting the Hungarian-born George Soros, accusing him of seeking to flood the country with refugees.
“The blood of Hungarian Jewry is crying out from the ground,” said MK Khenin in the Knesset plenum. “Those who praise leaders who collaborated with the Nazis, who persecute human rights groups and the opposition in their country, are not welcome here,” he emphasized.
Orban arrived in Israel for a two-day visit in the country, in a follow-up to last year’s trip to Budapest by Netanyahu. Orban, who is visiting Israel accompanied by his foreign minister, Péter Szijjártó, landed at Ben Gurion Airport Wednesday evening and immediately set off for Jerusalem to meet at the Knesset with Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi.
On Thursday, Orban met with Israel’s Foreign Ministry Director General Yuval Rotem before beginning the official schedule of his trip, which started with a meeting with Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office. During the afternoon, Left activists demonstrated at Yad Vashem ‒ The World Holocaust Remembrance Center while Orban paid a formal visit to the shrine.
The trip comes a day after reports in the Israeli media that, under Netanyahu’s orders, Israel has lobbied the US administration to “open doors” to Orban’s government, which has traditionally been kept at arm’s length due to its ultra-nationalist stances and the prime minister’s embracing of what he has termed an “illiberal democracy.” According to Channel 10, Israel’s ambassador to the US Ron Dermer and other Israeli officials have met with members of the Trump administration on a number of occasions to encourage establishing stronger ties with Hungary under Orban.
“The message we gave to everyone who was willing to listen was that the relations with Hungary are very important and that Israel would want to see US-Hungarian ties getting warmer,” an Israeli official was quoted as saying.
The official reportedly cited Orban’s campaign against George Soros as precisely a reason that the Trump administration may be interested in closer ties.
Orban has made racist opposition to immigration a central part of his government’s message, along with attacks on Soros, accusing him of seeking to flood the country with refugees and advancing legislation to curb the operation of organizations funded by the internationally renowned Hungarian-born financier of Jewish origin.