Hungary's Orban pledges 'zero tolerance' for anti-Semitism

Lester Mason
July 22, 2018

"I heard you speak as a true friend of Israel about the need to combat anti-Semitism", Netanyahu said, noting that Hungary has spent millions of dollars renovating synagogues, among other moves.

"According to my definition", he added, "this is not anti-Semitism".

A year ago, Netanyahu made the first trip to Budapest by an Israeli prime minister since the fall of communism in 1989, thanking Orban for "standing up for Israel in global forums".

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

It also joined the Czech Republic and Romania in blocking an 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 global forums", Mr Netanyahu said. "It is deeply appreciated, and it is important".

He also welcomed "tremendous opportunities for cooperation" between their nations and commended the Hungarian leader in funding projects supporting Jewish establishments.

Netanyahu became the first Israeli prime minister to visit Budapest since the fall of communism in 1989.

The trip comes a day after reports in the Israeli media that, under Netanyahu's orders, Israel has lobbied the U.S. 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".

Wearing a dark hat in accordance with Jewish practice which says that men must not go bare-headed, Mr Orban arrived at the Western Wall - the holiest place at which Jews are allowed to pray - accompanied by its rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz.

Protesters were later expected to demonstrate at Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial, during Orban's visit there.

In a break with protocol for European Union leaders, who usually visit Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah during such trips, Mr Orban did not meet the Palestinian leader. However his deputy Zsolt Semjen will visit Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, under Palestinian Authority control in the West Bank.

The Hungarian legislation package, called "Stop Soros" in reference to the Jewish - Hungarian billionaire philanthropist George Soros, refers to an alleged plan for managing the migrant crisis which Hungary's government has repeatedly attributed to Soros.

The four-time Hungarian prime minister drew criticism a year ago for praising Miklos Horthy - Hungary's World War II-era ruler who introduced anti-Semitic laws and collaborated with the Nazis - and employing tropes that were anti-Semitic in tone against billionaire philanthropist George Soros during his re-election campaign. Many, including Soros himself, say the campaign is anti-Semitic.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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