Israel Renewing Contact with Hungary

YERUSHALAYIM -
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. (John Thys/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo)

Israel and Hungary are renewing contacts, and a high-level official visit to Budapest is being planned.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke for the first time with his Hungarian counterpart, Viktor Orban, on Monday evening, thanking him for “Hungary’s steadfast support for Israel in international institutions.”

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, Bennett and Orban agreed during a phone call to “continue bilateral cooperation in a range of fields and to maintain regular contact.”

Haaretz said the call was held at the Hungarians’ request and was coordinated via the National Security Council and the Foreign Ministry.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid reportedly facilitated the call, after a series of conversations with his Hungarian counterpart in recent months. Lapid is planning a visit to Hungary, which was twice postponed due to the pandemic.

His involvement appears to be a turnabout. In the past, Lapid accused Orban of running an antisemitic election campaign; and when he was opposition leader, lambasted then prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu for hosting the right-wing Orban in Israel in 2018.

“By hosting Orban, Netanyahu harms Israel’s national dignity and pride,” Lapid said at the time. “Netanyahu didn’t condemn Orban for praising Miklos Horthy, the Hungarian leader during World War II, who formed an alliance with [Adolf] Hitler and the Nazis and took an active role in the Holocaust of Hungarian Jews.”

Orban, for his part, has expressed appreciation for Netanyahu, and concern that ties with Israel should not suffer due to the change in leadership.

In August, he told Fox News that Netanyahu’s electoral defeat was a “challenge” for him and praised Netanyahu as a “good friend” of Hungary. “When he was in power, he always invested a lot of energy in having a good relationship with central European countries,” he said.

“This is a totally new circumstance around Hungary,” he said. “For me as a politician, it’s a strong challenge.”