‘The alliance of Hungary and Israel is unshakable’, said President of Hungary Katalin Novák, after she met with President of the State of Israel Isaac Herzog on 17 November in Jerusalem. During her visit, Katalin Novák also met with Israeli Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu.
The President arrived in Israel at the invitation of Mr Herzog for a two-day visit. Besides high-level political meetings, President Novák also visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Centre in Jerusalem and observed the operation of the Iron Dome anti-missile system together with Hungarian Defence Minister Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky.
The relationship between Hungary and Israel is very strong, Katalin Novák said in a statement, adding that the leaders of the two countries working hard to maintain and strengthen this relationship, both economically and politically. ‘Hungary stands for peace, and Israel is a country committed to peace’ – she said.
According to the President, Israel is strongly defending its people and its country, and there is much to learn from this Israeli experience, especially with a tragic war raging in Ukraine. Security is in the interest of every nation, and every nation has the right to its security. ‘The Israeli and Hungarian people know this very well and have experienced it first-hand,’ she added.
Katalin Novák also said that the alliance between Hungary and Israel is unshakeable, that Hungary has always stood by Israel in the international arena, and assured President Isaac Herzog that they can count on the support of the Hungarian people in the future.
Hungary has vetoed many resolutions targeting the Jewish state in both the UN and the EU, including the ones which sought to declare Israeli settlements illegal or to condemn the United States for moving its embassy to Jerusalem. Hungary also opposes the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement and rejects a ban on kosher slaughter, thus helping to preserve Europe’s Jewish-Christian heritage. After the US recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Hungary opened a trade office in the city, a gesture towards both Israel and the US. Budapest also supported President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan. The Hungarian government has a zero-tolerance policy towards anti-Semitism and has revised hate-speech legislation while allocating significant financial support to Hungarian Jewish communities.
‘Hungary is home to the third largest Jewish community in Europe and we Hungarians are proud of this. Today, Jewish culture and Jewish people are experiencing a renaissance in Hungary, and our country will continue to do everything in its power to ensure that the Jewish people can continue to live in Hungary in utmost safety,’ President Novák stated.
Following the meeting with the Israeli president, Katalin Novák held talks with Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu and Acting Prime Minister Yair Lapid, and also met with representatives of Christian denominations in Jerusalem.
President Novák discussed the Middle East situation with Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu, whom she described as a ‘courageous politician with a clear vision.’
‘Hungary is not only an ally but a friend to Israel,’ Acting Prime Minister Yair Lapid stressed in his meeting with the Hungarian President.
President Novák also visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem, where she wrote in the guest book: ‘May our prayers be listened to, and may more people understand that in G-d we are united, that our common father brings us closer to each other. [May] the Israeli-Hungarian friendship [be] long-lasting!’
Hungary to Buy Israeli Military Technology
After talks with his Israeli counterpart Benny Gantz in Jerusalem, Hungarian Defence Minister Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky said recent events are proof that all international alliances must now focus on strengthening defence capabilities. An Israeli radar system capable of detecting and tracking air and artillery targets will be put into operation with the Hungarian Defence Forces next year. The arrival of the system was announced by defence minister after the meeting.
The Hungarian defence industry is also involved in the production of some of the locator units, the effectiveness of which has already been proven as part of the Israeli Iron Dome air defence system. The Hungarian defence minister also highlighted that the two countries have long enjoyed close and excellent relations in the field of defence.
In December 2020, General Ferenc Korom, then Commander of the Hungarian Defence Forces, and Stéphane Oehrli, President and CEO of Rheinmetall Canada Inc. signed a contract for the procurement of eleven ELM-2084 air surveillance, air defence and artillery reconnaissance radars under Hungary’s Zrínyi 2026 Defence and Force Development Programme. The equipment, which incorporates the Israeli company IAI ELTA’s active phase-steered (AESA) radar technology, will replace the old Soviet P-37, PRV-17 and SZT-68U radars of the Defence Forces. Parts of a new radar system are expected to arrive in 2023, and Hungarian-made components will be incorporated in 2025, the minister added.
With the election of Benjamin Netanyahu, Hungarian-Israeli relations are likely to develop further, given the friendly relationship between Mr Netanyahu and Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán. But the relationship between the two prime ministers is based on more than just personal rapport and friendship: they are, in a sense, also ‘brothers in arms’, since ‘it’s the same European establishment that opposes Orbán’s Hungary which also opposes Netanyahu’s Israel,’ noted Slomó Köves, leader of the Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation.
To see how the friendly relationship between the two leaders has developed and how Hungary became Israel’s most reliable partner in Europe, read our previous article on the subject.