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Press – Roundup: Reactions to Netanyahu’s Visit to Budapest

Tom Szigeti 2017.07.20.

Today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu left Budapest, ending his visit to the country where he, among other events, held an eventful and, in the view of some, controversial, press conference together with Hungarian Premier Viktor Orbán.

Naturally, Netanyahu’s visit, the first by a sitting Israeli Prime Minister since the end of communism in Hungary, generated a great deal of press reaction, both domestically and internationally as well. Below, you can find a small selection of the numerous responses to the Israeli’s premiers visit to the Hungarian capital.

Hungarian Press Reactions

The Hungarian portion of the press round-up comes via budapost.eu:

The Israeli Prime Minister is criticized by a left-wing pundit, while his visit is interpreted by a right-wing commentator as convincing proof that the accusations of anti-Semitism levelled against the Hungarian government from time to time are groundless.

In Népszava, Gábor Horváth borrows the title of Neil Simon’s famous play to call the Prime Ministers of Hungary and Israel ‘the odd couple’. Netanyahu, he explains, needs a partner within the European Union who might dampen the sharply critical attitude prevailing there regarding Israel’s settlement programs on the West Bank, while his Hungarian counterpart needs an Israeli Prime Minister who ‘keeps silent about anti-Semitism in Hungary’. He believes that the statement by the Israeli ambassador to Budapest criticizing the anti-Soros billboard campaign (see BudaPost, July 12) was an expression of genuine Israeli opinion about anti-Semitism in Hungary, while Netanyahu corrected it out of purely political considerations.

Magyar Hírlap ’s Mariann Őry, on the other hand, finds it absurd to suppose that Mr. Netanyahu would lend his weight to anti-Semitic practices for any reason whatsoever. She calls the first visit by an Israeli Premier to democratic Hungary an event of historic importance, and suggests that this is precisely why the Left is unhappy about it. Őry finds it self-evident that criticizing Soros is not the same as being anti-Semitic, and thus accusations of anti-Semitism which are aimed at discrediting the incumbent government overwrite all logic. The accusers’ problem, the pro-government commentator argues, is that Netanyahu is too authentic a source to say that critics of Soros should not automatically be considered an anti-Semite – and that he is one of them.

A liberal columnist suggests that what visiting Israeli Prime Minister has in common with Mr Orbán is that both of them are nationalists.  A pro-Israeli author praises both governments for protecting national, religious and cultural traditions.

In a statement after meeting his host in Budapest, the Israeli Prime Minister praised Hungary for being ‘at the forefront of those states that are opposed to anti-Israeli politics’, which are a new form of anti-Semitism. PM Orbán acknowledged that the Hungarian government had sinned during World War Two by ‘opting for collaborating with Nazi Germany instead of protecting Hungary’s Jews’. He added that Hungary would never allow that to happen again.

On hvg.hu, Sándor Révész accuses Mr Netanyahu of putting Israel first, which, he thinks, automatically means disregarding the interests of Jews. He describes the Israeli leader as being of the same breed as President Trump of the United States, who puts ‘America first’, which in his mind adds up to dismissing universal values. That is precisely, Révész adds, what Trump and Netanyahu have in common with the Hungarian Prime Minister. Where universal values are secondary, he concludes, nobody can feel safe.

On Hetek online, former Liberal MP István Mészáros, a prominent member of the Congregation of the Faith, an evangelical denomination thinks Hungary and Israel are natural allies. They both resist the expansion of Islamist terrorism and defend their common Judeo-Christian values, Mészáros adds. He praises Israel for building a wall to protect itself from terror attacks, and Hungary for erecting a fence to prevent an invasion, in defiance of ‘insensate international pressures’. Mészáros also hails both countries for defying an international trend ‘aimed at destroying national, religious and cultural frameworks’.

 International Press Reactions

The international press was recently quite pre-occupied with Netanyahu’s hot-mic following a meeting with Visegrád Group (V4) leaders, in which he told the leaders of Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland about how “actually crazy” the EU’s policies toward Israel are, as well as admitting to Israel striking Iranian arms convoys “dozens of times.” You can listen to a snippet of the unintentionally public conversation below:

Naturally, there were plenty of other reactions to the visit as well. In the New York Times, for example, Mairav Zonszein examined what she described as “Israel’s War Against George Soros,” in which she expressed dismay at, among other things, the Israeli government’s defense of the Orbán government’s anti-Soros signs that have been described by many, both in Hungary and abroad, as generating anti-Semitic attitudes.

In an article written ahead of the trip, the Times of Israel’s Raphael Ahren discussed the view of critics arguing that, in even agreeing to visit Hungary in the first place, Netanyahu was putting “realpolitik ahead of ties with local Jews,” a reference to the Hungarian Jewish community’s opposition to anti-Soros billboard campaign, as well as to larger concerns about anti-Semitism in Hungary.

And in the Financial Times, Philip Stephens argued that Netanyahu’s trip showed that “strongmen, it seems, stick together,” and that the Israeli Prime Minister’s shares an affinity, with Orbán, for more autocratic, less democratic forms of ‘illiberal’ governance. Considering the circumstances of the recent Soros billboards, as well as Orbán’s controversial praise for Miklós Horthy, Hungary’s Regent from 1920 to 1944, Stephens claimed that it was “more than puzzling” that Netanyahu would follow through with his visit to Budapest.

Via budapost.eu, Haaretz, the New York Times, The Times of Israel, and the Financial Times

Image via MTI

Video via Haaretz YouTube

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