Israel and Hungary quickly cleared away the diplomatic dark cloud created by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s praise for Hitler ally Miklos Horthy, which threatened to disrupt Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s visit to Budapest in two weeks.
In a recent speech, Orban called Horthy one of his country’s “exceptional statesmen” who led a national recovery from the traumatic disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after World War I. Horthy aligned with Nazi Germany, and his government cooperated in the deportation of over half a million Jews to death camps.
Israeli Ambassador to Hungary, Yossi Armani, sought official clarification from Hungary. After initial contacts elicited no response, Armani took Israel’s grievance to Hungarian national broadcasting service, and that resulted in a phone conversation with Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto.
In a statement afterwards, Szijjarto said that he assured the Israeli envoy that the Hungarian government has “zero tolerance for anti-Semitism.” Concerning Horthy, the foreign minister said that he had “positive periods but also very negative periods.”
“We need to respect historical facts that clearly point to that,” Szijjarto said, adding that the deportations “are historical transgressions, the seriousness of which can’t be diminished.”
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said in response:
“Israel believes the things that the Hungarian foreign minister said to the Israeli ambassador in Budapest are an important clarification concerning the recognition of the crimes by Horthy against the Jews of Hungary,” Nahshon said.
“We will always remember the 564,500 of our brothers and sisters from the Hungarian Jewish community who were murdered in the Shoah [Holocaust].”
In Israel, however, opposition MK Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Camp) insisted on a tougher response:
“Just like you dared to cancel your meeting with the German foreign minister after he met with Breaking the Silence, I demand that you cancel your visit to Hungary and your meeting with Viktor Orban, who expressed admiration for the dark past of his country during the Shoah, and not for the first time,” she demanded.
“These days I am working on an amendment to the proposed entry into Israeli law so that it prohibits the entry into Israel of declared anti-Semites, people who oddly enough have become his party’s partners, and are even invited by them to visits to Israel,” Svetlova said.
Netanyahu’s scheduled visit to Hungary on July 18 remains unchanged.