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Israeli PM Netanyahu set to meet right-wing Hungarian leader

Israeli PM Netanyahu set to meet right-wing Hungarian leader
3 min read
17 July, 2017
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will arrive in Hungary on Tuesday in a landmark visit to bolster ties with right-wing leader Viktor Orban, who has been accused of "authoritarianism".
The landmark Hungary visit is the first since the end of communism. [Getty]
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will arrive in Hungary on Tuesday for a landmark visit to Budapest to bolster ties with fellow right-wing leader Viktor Orban and his increasingly isolated government.

Both leaders are enamoured with US President Donald Trump and have shown a disdain for left-leaning liberal politics.

The visit by Netanyahu, the first by an Israeli premier since the end of Communism, comes as Hungary faces widespread criticism for a government sponsored campaign publicly vilifying US billionaire George Soros.

Posters attacking the Hungarian-born Jewish businessmen for his alleged support for mass immigration were strongly condemned by Jewish groups in Hungary, who called the billboards "poisonous". 

Some of the posters were defaced with graffiti reading "Stinking Jew."

Israel's ambassador to Hungary initially condemned the posters, saying they evoked "sad memories", a reference to Hungary's role in deporting 500,000 Jews to their deaths during the Holocaust.

But in a highly unusual move, Israel's foreign ministry released a "clarification" just hours later, saying Soros was a legitimate target of criticism.

Soros funds organisations "that defame the Jewish state and seek to deny it the right to defend itself", Israel's foreign ministry spokesman said.

Soros, who hid from the Nazis in Budapest as a boy, said that the posters-  plastered nationwide - used "anti-Semitic imagery".

'Whitewashing Anti-Semitism' 

Netanyahu will meet on Wednesday with premiers of the Visegrad group, comprising Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, plus Hungary.

"All these states are very pro-Israel," Raphael Vago, an expert on Eastern Europe at Tel Aviv University, told AFP.

"They vote in our favour at the European Union and the United Nations."

Some have accused Netanyahu of whitewashing anti-Semitism in a bid to curry favour with Hungary, with the country's leader Viktor Orban accused of turning a blind eye, and even actively encouraging anti-Jewish sentiments. 

Orban recently praised war-time leader Miklos Horthy as an "exceptional statesman" for rebuilding Hungary after World War One.

Viktor Orban has been accused of turning a blind eye to, and even encouraging, Antisemitism

The leader was a staunch ally of Hitlet until 1944, and oversaw the murder of half a million Hungarian Jews.

"No government has done more to fight anti-Semitism in Hungary," Orban's spokesman said in a blog post on Thursday.

Despite allegations, Netanyahu and Orban largely agree on their views of Soros.

Israel has long accused the billionaire of funding both Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups critical of the occupation.

Orban, for his part, has said the 86-year-old poses a "national security risk" by his wish to "settle a million migrants" in the European Union.

The Hungarian prime minister has also cracked down on the Central European University in Budapest, created by Soros, and on civil organisations he funds - prompting EU legal action.

Netanyahu has implemented similar measures against Israeli NGOs critical of human rights abuses, including pushing bills to halt foreign funding.

"Connecting Soros to the migration issue is the (Hungarian) government's aim, but it is a problem for Orban if the campaign is seen as anti-Semitic," political analyst Csaba Toth told AFP.

"So the Netanyahu visit helps him as it bolsters his claims that the Soros campaign is not."