Israel Rolls Out Red Carpet for Hungarian Leader

Alan Elsner Image
Alan Elsner
on July 18, 2018

Israel is giving a fulsome welcome to visiting Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who used an anti-Semitic poster campaign to win his last election and has made hatred of immigrants a centerpiece of his platform.

This is the same Viktor Orban who last year hailed as an “exceptional statesman” the country’s wartime leader and Nazi ally Miklos Horthy, who enacted anti-Jewish laws and under whose watch over half a million Jews were deported to Auschwitz.

During his visit, Orban will meet with President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and tour the Western Wall and Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum. As the son of a Holocaust survivor, it makes me sick.

How do Hungarian Jews feel about it? In an interview with The Times of Israel, Rabbi Zoltán Radnóti, who heads the Federation of Jewish Communities rabbinical council, said: “The State of Israel protects the people of Israel. It defends the entire Jewish people. And the prime minister is the Holy of Holies. But suddenly we saw that this prime minister, for political reasons, was deserting us. All of a sudden, our holiness, Bibi himself, goes over to the other side. He embraces Orban and hugs him. What happened here? That hurt us, deep in our hearts and souls… He’s not with us. He’s with Orban.”

Natan Sharansky, who is retiring after nine years heading the Jewish Agency, spoke about the issue in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. His words:

“Israel has the right to pursue state interests but it cannot be blind regarding anti-Jewish leaders. We can’t change electoral results. But it’s crucial the Israeli government remain in constant dialogue with Jewish communities everywhere. In every case, there must always be a visible correlation between a nation’s attitude to Jews and to Israel.”

“Israel has to stand against anti-Semitism on the left and on the right. Both those who like Israel and hate Jews and those who like Jews and hate Israel are not our allies.”

Netanyahu likes Orban, as well as the Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who got the same red carpet treatment last month despite the fact that he is in coalition with the far-right Freedom Party, which has anti-Semitic roots. What attracts Netanyahu to these leaders is the fact that they are willing to support Israel in the European Community. Perhaps, he also appreciates their clear authoritarian tendencies.

Netanyahu is even willing to cozy up to Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, whose government enacted a law making it a crime to accuse the Polish nation of complicity in the Holocaust. Among other things, it made use of the term “Polish death camps” a crime.

Every politician has to make compromises to succeed; we should all recognize that. But Netanyahu takes this to a repugnant new low. He is willing to make his bed and lie down with authoritarians who dabble in anti-Semitism — throwing Jewish communities around the world under the bus as a result.

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