The Hungarian government announced on Wednesday that it will end a billboard campaign against Jewish billionaire and philanthropist George Soros, which has been accused of being anti-Semitic, just three days before Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu arrives for a visit, The Times of Israel reported on Wednesday.
The posters show Soros laughing, alongside the text: “Let’s not let Soros have the last laugh,” a reference to government claims that the liberal Soros is financing pro-immigration groups in Hungary.
Spokesmen for the Hungarian Jewish community have protested the campaign as anti-Semitic, and noted that it has inspired several incidents of graffiti such as “Stinking Jew” and Stars of David being daubed on the posters.
The government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban claimed on Wednesday that it was removing the contentious billboards, not because of protests, but because the anti-Soros campaign had accomplished its goals and was no longer necessary, according to Hungarian news outlets. It was also noted that a new law regulating political posters in public places goes into effect on July 15.
However, Hungarian ATV news quoted a leading member of Orban’s ruling Fidesz party as saying that the decision to end the campaign was actually due to Netanyahu’s upcoming visit, as well as preparations for an international water polo tournament scheduled to start on Thursday.
The Israeli foreign ministry sided with Budapest after the Israeli ambassador criticized the campaign, reportedly at Netanyahu’s instructions. And on Tuesday, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party said he is preparing what he called a “Soros Law” to prohibit left-wing NGO’s from receiving foreign funding.
Netanyahu’s meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban will be the first visit by an Israeli prime minister since the downfall of communist rule in 1989.