Foreign Ministry confirms Hungarian PM's visit

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban will visit Israel later this month.

Nissan Tzur,

Viktor Orban
Viktor Orban
Reuters

Israel's Foreign Ministry confirmed on Sunday that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban would visit Israel between July 18 and 20 and meet senior government officials.

It was initially reported last week that the Hungarian Prime Minister would visit Israel this month. According to the report, the visit was coordinated at a meeting of national security advisers of the Visegrad group, which was also attended by Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat.

Orban’s visit comes a year after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu visited Hungary and invited Orban to visit Israel.

Orban, who was reelected in April for a third consecutive term in office, is considered a strong opponent of the EU's immigration policy and a close friend of Netanyahu.

In recent months Hungary has been in a protracted conflict with the European Union after Orban criticized the immigration policy and announced that Hungary would not accept more Muslim immigrants to its territory.

The planned visit by Orban drew sharp criticism from opposition members in Israel who claimed that the Hungarian government's anti-immigrant campaign had an anti-Semitic feel to it, after the Hungarian government published posters bearing the image of Jewish-Hungarian billionaire George Soros, accusing him of financial aid allowing the entry of immigrants to European countries.

MKs Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) and Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) demanded that Netanyahu cancel Orban's visit to Israel, claiming he "launched an anti-Semitic campaign." They also accused him of praising Hungary's leader during World War II, Miklos Horthy, who was considered one of Adolf Hitler's closest allies.

"Orban said Miklos Horthy is a great leader. He murdered my grandparents in Hungary. The fact that Netanyahu is turning these leaders in Europe into his close friends is very worrying," said Lapid.

Jewish groups in Hungary have sometimes accused Orban's right-wing government, in power since 2010, of downplaying Hungary's role in the Holocaust during which some 600,000 Hungarian Jews perished.

In 2015, however, Orban admitted his country’s role in the Holocaust, saying many Hungarians chose "bad instead of good" in helping deport Jews to Nazi death camps.

He has also come under fire for failing to condemn the anti-Semitism of the Jobbik party.

In November of 2012, one of Jobbik’s members released a statement saying that a list should be compiled of all of the Jewish members of government.

He was followed by another Jobbik member who called publicly for the resignation of a fellow MP who claimed to have Israeli citizenship.


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