Netanyahu visiting Hungary amid dispute over anti-Soros ads


The first visit by an Israeli prime minister to Hungary since 1989 finds Benjamin Netanyahu at odds with the country's main Jewish group over Israel's failure to fully condemn a campaign by the Hungarian government against billionaire philanthropist George Soros.

Netynyahu, who arrived in Budapest on Monday, will be meeting with Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban on Tuesday and with leaders of the other Central European countries in the Visegrad Group — Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia — on Wednesday.

However, it's his encounter late Wednesday with leaders of Hungary's Jewish community that may be most tricky.

Andras Heisler, president of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities, told The Associated Press that he had recently asked the Israeli government to explain to his group why Israel shifted its position on the Orban government's ads targeting George Soros, whom Orban — radically opposed to migration — largely blames for Europe's migrant crisis.

While the campaign officially ended on Saturday, many billboards with a photo of a smiling Soros and the caption "Let's not allow Soros to have the last laugh" were still visible around Budapest.

On July 8 the Israeli ambassador to Hungary called for an end to the anti-Soros billboards and posters, but a day later the Israeli foreign ministry issued a "clarification" noting that while it deplored "any expression of anti-Semitism," it did not seek to "delegitimize" criticism of Soros, a Budapest-born Holocaust survivor, accusing him of "continuously undermining" Israel's governments.

Soros supports groups that Israel's hawkish government views as unfairly harsh toward the Jewish state or favoring Palestinian viewpoints.

"The Israeli foreign ministry's clarification ... in part surprised us and in part was hugely disappointing," Andras Heisler, president of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities, told The Associated Press. "The Hungarian Jewish community felt that we were left in the lurch."

Heisler noted the Orban government's support for Hungary's Jewish community in projects like the renovation of synagogues and its political backing of Israel in international forums.

"On the other hand, in terms of remembrance policies and historical perspectives, we sometimes have serious conflicts with the Hungarian government," Heisler said.

Orban's praise for Miklos Horthy, Hungary's post-World War I leader, has drawn criticism from Jewish groups, and the 2014 unveiling of a statue commemorating Nazi Germany's 1944 invasion of Hungary, its hitherto ally, was seen by critics as an effort to downplay Hungary's role in the Holocaust, in which some 550,000 Hungarian Jews were killed.

Still, Netanyahu's visit to Hungary, which will also include a business forum, could be aimed at seeking support among regional European Union members for opposition to the so-called BDS movement — boycott, divestment, sanctions — protesting Israel's policies toward Palestinians.

"For Netanyahu, it would be a great political gain if the Visegrad Group rejects BDS while not urging him about peace talks with the Palestinians," said Gabor Miklos, a former foreign affairs journalist with the daily Nepszabadsag, closed last year after its purchase by an Orban ally. "It would also be a great gain if these countries recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital."

For Orban, who professes "zero tolerance for anti-Semitism" despite his conflicts with the Jewish community, hosting Netanyahu could help him mitigate the criticism, Miklos said.

"Netanyahu's visit provides him a kind of acquittal regarding anti-Semitism and the stamp of being far-right," Miklos said.

Regardless of any differences, Heisler, who said Hungarian Jews face "verbal anti-Semitism" but not violent attacks like Jewish communities in Western Europe, was looking forward to the Netanyahu meeting.

"For us, the visit of the prime minister of Israel to our country is a very exciting and uplifting occasion," Heisler said.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Nation World

Shutdown nixes Trump visit to Mar-a-Lago; party goes on with son Eric headlining
Shutdown nixes Trump visit to Mar-a-Lago; party goes on with son Eric headlining

The federal government shutdown led President Donald Trump to cancel plans to celebrate the anniversary of his first year in office at a $100,000-per-couple fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago on Saturday. As of Saturday evening, the fundraiser was still set to go on with presidential son Eric Trump and his wife, Lara Trump, and Republican National...
Shutdown: Uncertainty plagues civil servants, WPAFB workers, businesses
Shutdown: Uncertainty plagues civil servants, WPAFB workers, businesses

Employees at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base will report to work on Monday for further instructions. On Main Street in downtown Fairborn Saturday night there were a lot of questions about the partial shutdown, from workers who may be at risk of furlough to businesses those workers visit. “It’s definitely uncertainty,” Casey Hudson...
Girl, 9, unknowingly hands out THC-laced candy to classmates, school says
Girl, 9, unknowingly hands out THC-laced candy to classmates, school says

A 9-year-old girl unwittingly ate, and handed out to other classmates, THC-laced candy, school officials said.  The girl brought the candies to school last Thursday and said she could not see; another girl ate them and started to feel dizzy, Albuquerque School of Excellence Dean of Elementary School Students Kristy Del Curto told KRQE. ...
Man shot in leg during drug deal outside Walmart, police say
Man shot in leg during drug deal outside Walmart, police say

Police are looking for the suspect who shot a man during a drug deal around 3 p.m. Saturday in a Walmart parking lot. According to Sgt. Brandon McCroskey of the Fairfield Township police, the suspect shot the victim in the leg during a drug deal while the victim was in his vehicle. The victim then accelerated his vehicle and struck other vehicles and...
Jim Rodford, bassist for The Kinks, dead at 76
Jim Rodford, bassist for The Kinks, dead at 76

Jim Rodford, bassist for popular rock band The Kinks from 1978 to 1996, has died at 76, according to the band. The Kinks, whose hits include “You Really Got Me,” “Lola,” “I’m Not Like Everybody Else,” “A Well-Respected Man,” “Victoria” and “Waterloo Sunset,” made the announcement...
More Stories