Israel’s new Foreign Minister, Gabi Ashkenazi, denied on Thursday that he agreed to a joint statement with his Hungarian counterpart that their two countries have a shared cause in fighting illegal immigration.
“The parties agreed that governments that are founded on patriotic, national values and that enforce national interests are being attacked in international political life as a result of hypocrisy, bias, and political correctness,” according to a readout of a phone conversation between the two provided by the Hungarian Foreign Ministry.
“In view of the fact that both Hungary and Israel have governments of this nature, the further development of strategic cooperation between the two countries is guaranteed,” Ashkenazi and Szijjártó said in a joint statement, according to the readout.
“Hungary and Israel share a common standpoint with relation to the issue of retaining identity and the importance of sovereignty and security, as well as with respect to the need to take action against illegal migration,” it reportedly said.
A representative from Ashkenazi’s office told The Times of Israel that those issues were not discussed. “Gabi thanked him for Hungary’s support for Israel in international forums and they agreed to stay in touch. But they never discussed immigration at all,” the spokesperson said.
The Hungarian connection, which Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has developed along friendly lines, treads on sensitive ground due to the controversial nature of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s regime.
His right-wing government has implemented measures which have made it nearly impossible for asylum-seekers presenting their applications at the Serbian border to be allowed into Hungary.
More generally, Hungary has been condemned for anti-democratic policies. Following the recent passage of a bill allowing Orban to rule by decree, the U.S.-based human rights organization Freedom House declared earlier this month that Hungary is one of several Central and Eastern European countries that have “dropped even the pretense that they play by the rules of democracy.”
In their conversation, Hungary pledged its continued support of Israel in international forums. “Mr. Szijjártó told the Israeli Foreign Minister that Hungary will continue to refrain from supporting statements that condemn Israel in both the EU and the United Nations, and also regards the procedure against Israel by the International Criminal Court as unfounded,” the readout said, a statement not disputed by the Israeli foreign ministry.
Hungary was one of seven states that submitted formal legal opinions that took Israel’s position contesting proposed ICC jurisdiction to proceed with an investigation into possible war crimes committed in the Palestinian territories.