In a sign of burgeoning diplomatic ties, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán will arrive in Israel on Wednesday for an official visit as a guest of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Orbán is expected to visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem and meet with the country’s chief rabbis.
Orbán, whose country is a member of the European Union, is spearheading a contrarian line within the organization – which is one reason for the warming relations between Israel and Hungary and the respective leaders.
Israel Hayom has learned that unlike other EU leaders who have visited Israel, Orbán will not visit the Palestinian Authority. As a small diplomatic token, however, he will send his deputy, Zsolt Semjén, to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in Judea and Samaria.
This will not be Hungary’s first gesture toward Israel under Orbán. In late 2017, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini pushed for an EU resolution to condemn the American decision to relocate the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Mogherini attempted to pass the resolution through the Foreign Affairs Council of the EU, but Orbán instructed Hungary’s representative to oppose it, essentially torpedoing the initiative.
Orbán, who recently won his country’s general elections with a landslide, has been attacked by liberal circles in Western Europe and the United States. Among other allegations, Orbán is accused of being anti-Semitic. Amnesty International on Monday even called for Orbán to be barred from visiting Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.
Rabbi Shlomo Kovesh, who manages Budapest’s Chabad House and maintains a close relationship with Orbán, however, said the Hungarian leader has a favorable view of Jews.
“In Hungary, there isn’t any actual physical anti-Semitism. You can be a religious Jew without concern and without having to hide your kippah,” said Kovesh. “On one hand, there is immense support here from the government for any Jewish issue, which amounts to tens of millions of euros per year. On the other, any display of anti-Semitism is immediately investigated by the police and the perpetrators are tried in court,” he added.
According to Kovesh, Netanyahu’s trip to Hungary in July 2017 had an exceedingly positive influence on Orbán and the countries’ relations.
“After that visit, Orbán spoke glowingly about Israel on several occasions, and even said, ‘Israel is a positive example for Hungary.’ The fact that he chose [to name] the Jewish country of all places testifies to his attitude toward the Jews,” Kovesh said.