Balázs Orbán, the Hungarian prime minister’s political director, gave an extensive interview to Israel Hayom, Israel’s most widely-read newspaper.[i] The interview was prompted by the recent development of Hungary being drawn into debates about Israeli domestic politics. Balázs Orbán became part of that discourse with his recent reaction to Israeli opposition politician Yair Lapid’s tweet which said: ‘In Hungary, inflation is 24 per cent, and food prices are up 48 per cent this year. That’s where Levin and Netanyahu will lead us.’ Orbán reacted to the comment on Twitter:
As for the relations between the two countries, Balázs Orbán stated stated in the interview: ‘First and foremost, we think Hungary and Israel are strategic partners and friends. We really hope that Israel will embark on a good path, and we wish you great success. If there is anything we can do for Israel, tell us. I think that Israel needs its own course, just like we have our own one.’
The political director highlighted that he is a firm believer in ‘national-religious identity that was formulated by Yoram Hazony, an Israeli-American who says that in modern times conservatism can only be associated with positive nationalism’, which means that ‘you have to focus on the interest of your country and by showing self-interest you can achieve an extremely stable international status’. ‘I hope there will be areas where we can deepen our cooperation—economy, military, innovation, industry, and the promotion of common foreign policy goals. Israel now has a conservative-right-wing government, like Hungary’, Orbán added.
The Israeli interviewer asked whether other countries in the European Union support Israel as much as Hungary and if not, how can the Jewish State’s position be better understood in Europe. Orbán emphasised in his answer that, unfortunately, except for some Central-European countries, ‘Hungary is alone in supporting the State of Israel as it has become controversial to do so for Western European countries.’ As we wrote in a previous article, Hungary supported Israel in the international community in 2022 when the UN passed 15 resolutions against Israel and only 13 against the rest of the world. Unlike the majority of the states of the UN, Hungary voted ‘no’ to most of the resolutions that condemned the Jewish State. Hungarian Conservative also highlighted earlier that at the beginning of 2023, Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs Péter Szijjártó promised ‘Hungary will not vote for anti-Israel resolutions in the future either’ and after the meeting with the new Israeli Foreign Minister, Eli Cohen, predicted that ‘2023 will be another successful year in Hungarian-Israeli relations’.
Orbán explained that the way Israel is perceived has changed in the EU because, in recent decades, millions of illegal immigrants from the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa who have anti-Israeli views settled in the EU; therefore, many politicians from Western-European countries started to adopt these opinions. He highlighted that ‘in Central Europe, especially in Hungary, a very strong opinion has been formulated against illegal immigration which is supported by the Hungarian population.’ ‘The Hungarian population strongly supports the State of Israel, an unambiguously national-religious state like Hungary, which believes in innovation, a strong military and the ability to jointly maintain the existing international structure’, he added.
When queried whether Hungary will be the first country in the EU to move its embassy to Jerusalem, Orbán answered: ‘If we receive an Israeli request on the matter, we will consider it.’
Orbán also expressed that the Hungarian government was happy that Benjamin Netanyahu won the recent Israeli elections ‘not only because he came from the same political camp as Fidesz and the relations between our partners are excellent, but also because we believe that Netanyahu can be the authoritative international figure who has the experience, knowledge, and leadership skills to try to convince Ukraine and Russia’s leaders to return to the negotiating table, as well as the United States.’ He highlighted: ‘The recent Israeli elections were not only important for the people of Israel, but I believe it was important for the entire world that prays for peace.’
In the terms of the future of the European Union, the Hungarian political director noted: ‘2024 will be a crucial election year in the United States and Europe. I hope that Brussels and Western world leaders will understand that the West can continue to exist even if there is a dichotomy between conservatives and liberals. Right now, all conservatives are being persecuted—in Italy, Poland, Austria, and Israel. It’s quite scary.’ He concluded: ‘We hope Hungary will play an important role in supporting the global conservative counter-revolutionary movement.’
[i]Neokohn, ‘Orbán Balázs: Ha Izrael kéri, átgondoljuk követségünk Jeruzsálembe költöztetését’, Israel Hayom, (2 February 2023), https://neokohn.hu/2023/02/02/orban-balazs-ha-izrael-keri-atgondoljuk-kovetsegunk-jeruzsalembe-koltozteteset/ , accessed 3 February 2023.