While the entire diplomatic corps was invited Hungary was one of just four European countries to attend Monday’s official opening of the United States’ new embassy in Jerusalem, a move that was boycotted by allies including the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. This event was itself overshadowed by news that 60 Palestinians were shot by Israeli soldiers at the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel.
The 28 member States of the European Union were for the most part united in their disapproval of US President Donald Trump’s decision to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the American embassy from Tel Aviv (where most embassies are currently based), with a few notable exceptions. Just four EU member states, namely Hungary, the Czech Republic, Romania and Austria, joined Netanyahu, Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, and other international dignitaries for the new embassy’s opening ceremony. In fact, of 83 countries that have embassies in Israel, just 33 accepted invitations to the event (you can view the list in its entirety here).
In addition, last week Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic also blocked the release of a statement by the European Union that would have condemned US plans to officially open its embassy to Israel in Jerusalem.
In a statement, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó claimed that Hungary strives to promote peace in the Middle East, but it requires a two-state solution based on Israel and the Palestinian state, achieved through peaceful negotiations. He also argued that Hungary supports any international measures to that end but will reject “moves aimed at generating hysteria”.
He also criticised the European Union for “acting as a judge and creating tension” in connection with issues around the United States relocating its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “It is not right nor does it have any purpose if the EU passes a patronising opinion on each and every international issue”, he insisted. “Statements that can generate hysteria do not contribute to a solution but further deepen existing divisions,” he added.
Home to some of the holiest sites of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the status of Jerusalem has long been a complicated, disputed one. As The Atlantic points out, the city was originally partitioned at the creation of Israel, with ‘East Jerusalem’ allotted to a prospective future Palestinian state. Over time, however (and particularly since the Six-Day War of 1967), Israel has slowly, but steadily, encroached on the Eastern half of Jerusalem, constructing Jewish residential neighborhoods that are “not recognized by any country to this day.”
All of this diplomatic posturing, however, was quickly overshadowed by protests on the Gaza-Israel border that ended with massive Palestinian casualties.
Over the past six weeks, Palestinians have been participating in a protest dubbed the “Great March of Return” at the border, a demonstration that the BBC notes is
in support of the right of Palestinian refugees to return to land they fled from or were forced to leave in the war which followed Israel’s founding in 1948.
More than 2,700 Palestinian demonstrators were injured on Monday — at least 1,350 by gunfire — along the border fence with Gaza, the Health Ministry reported. The mass protests began on March 30 and had already left dozens dead. As of this writing, the death toll from Monday’s protest stands at 60 Palestinians; in total 13 children have been killed since the protests began.
The United Nations, France, Germany and Great Britain have condemned Israel’s “excessive force” and violence at the border, while China and Russia have also raised concerns about the events.
By contrast, the Hungarian government has
yet to issue an official response to Monday’s violence.
Despite this silence, however, some notable pro-Fidesz pundits have expressed both support and condemnation for Israel over the past few days. Istvan Lovas, foreign-affairs correspondent at the pro-Fidesz station Echo TV’s Sajtóklub, sharply condemned Israel’s actions. As he put it:
What’s happening at this border…there are already six reporters among the dead, one of whom is an Algerian journalist, as well as children and Palestinian Christians. I have a hard time imagining anything filthier or more disgusting; and when the mainstream lies that there was a conflict, incredibly, the Israeli Defense Forces come away without a scratch, even when rockets are being fired from here and there, especially when children are playing with kites and slings. The million and a half unfortunate people who live there have three hours of electricity each day, their water is polluted, and, according to the UN, their lands will become uninhabitable by 2020.
In this same show, Lovas questioned why the Orbán government has seemingly chosen to support Israel on this issue. In response, pro-Fidesz reporter Zsolt Bayer claimed that the Hungarian government has to support Israel and America because both countries’ governments currently share Orbán’s hardline stance on immigration.