Statement to the press by Viktor Orbán, following his meeting with Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu
18 July 2017, Budapest
Good day, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me to welcome to Budapest Prime Minister Netanyahu and his delegation – the official delegation of the State of Israel. I shall briefly summarise everything we talked about with the Honourable Prime Minister.
First of all, I’d like to inform the Hungarian public that during his visit the Prime Minister of Israel has expressed Israel’s respect for Hungary. The Honourable Prime Minister has received assurance from me of Hungary’s respect for the State of Israel. We confirmed that mutual respect is the basis of all inter-state relations, and Hungary will continue to follow this principle in the future. After thirty years – and throughout democratic Hungary’s history of twenty-odd years – this is the first time that a prime minister of the State of Israel has honoured us with an official visit. The goal is to consolidate and strengthen relations between the two countries on an enduring basis.
All of us – the Prime Minister included – know that there is a substantial Jewish minority in Hungary. I made it perfectly clear to the Honourable Prime Minister that, as Hungarian citizens, their security is guaranteed by the Hungarian state to the fullest extent. I also made it clear to the Honourable Prime Minister that the Hungarian government proclaims zero tolerance on anti-Semitism of every kind. I told the Prime Minister that in Hungary today Jewish life is undergoing a renaissance, and we are proud of this. We believe that this renaissance in Jewish life is a major contribution to the Hungarian nation’s communal achievements.
Naturally we also spoke about history – which in a meeting such as this is not only inevitable, but also desirable. I told the Honourable Prime Minister that we are aware of the painful nature of our history. I sought to clearly articulate that in an earlier period in history, when it failed to protect Hungary’s citizens of Jewish origin, Hungary’s government not only committed an error, but a crime. I would like to make it clear that, as we see it, it is the duty of every Hungarian government to protect every one of its citizens – regardless of their origins. In the Second World War Hungary failed to fulfil this duty – this moral and political duty. This was a crime. Then, instead of protecting the Jewish community, we decided to collaborate with the Nazis. I also made it clear to the Honourable Prime Minister that this can never happen again: in the future the Hungarian government shall protect all of its citizens.
As regards the future, Ladies and Gentlemen, this visit opens a new chapter. With the Honourable Prime Minister we discussed in detail the opportunities offered by this unfolding future, and we agreed that our track record so far on cooperation between our two countries has fallen short of its potential; but we both agreed that Jewish-Hungarian cooperation must be forward-looking.
We agreed that the most important issue will be security. I thanked the Prime Minister for the efforts with which Israel is contributing to the security of Europe. We agreed on the need to combat rising anti-Semitism in Europe, and the consequent need for firm and determined policy. On behalf of the Hungarian government I made it clear that we recognise Israel’s right to defend itself, and for our part we expect all others to recognise our right to defend ourselves. I made it clear that our country is engaged in major disputes with the European Union, as Hungary does not want a more diverse population, does not want to alter its current ethnic composition, and does not want to submit to any kind of contrived external influence. Even though I have to admit that we fall short of perfection, we would like to remain as we are.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We spoke about economic cooperation. The Honourable Prime Minister suggested that, instead of the usual bureaucratic approach, we should adopt a business-centred, project-based approach; and so we designated a few areas in which we shall expressly encourage cooperation between the members of our business communities. These are the high-tech sector – and, in particular, the new era now unfolding before the automotive industry. We also spoke about cultural, educational and scientific cooperation, and I believe that we have taken important steps towards strengthening the web of relations between our two countries.
In summary, I can say that I am delighted that Hungary is today welcoming to Budapest a committed patriot. This is because I’m convinced that, in today’s world, the successful governments are patriotic governments. And I’m also convinced that in the future success will belong to those countries which, in their words and actions, do not discard national identity and the national interest, but perhaps place them before all else.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We also have something to learn from Israel: Israel teaches the world – and us Hungarians – that one loses whatever one fails to fight for; because in the modern world, one must fight for everything. I sincerely hope that ever more of our Hungarian compatriots will understand this iron law of the modern era.
Thank you for your attention.