PM Netanyahu to PM Orbán: ‘Thank you for standing up for Israel’ at the forefront of opposition to this new anti-Semitism

During a historic visit – the first of a head of government of Israel in 30 years – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for “standing up for Israel in international forums,” and the Hungarian prime minister delivered a sharp rebuke of the failure of Hungary to defend its Jewish citizens during World War II, saying the country had sinned.

"There is a new anti-Semitism that is expressed in anti-Zionism," Prime Minister Netanyahu said at this afternoon’s joint press conference, “that is delegitimizing the one and only Jewish state. In many ways, Hungary is at the forefront of the states that are opposed to this anti-Jewish policy, and I welcome it and express the appreciation of my government and the many people of Israel."

“Standing with Israel,” Prime Minister Netanyahu said to Prime Minister Orbán, “it’s also standing with the truth.”

Prime Minister Orbán, meanwhile, spoke with arresting candor about Hungary’s past.

“[I]t is the duty of every Hungarian government to protect its citizens regardless of their origins,” the prime minister said. “Hungary didn’t fulfill this moral and political duty during World War II. Hungary sinned when instead of protecting the Jews, we chose to collaborate with the Nazis.”

The statement was one of the starkest admissions ever by a Hungarian prime minister of Hungary’s guilt in the Holocaust, describing as “sin” the collaboration with the Nazis and failure to protect the approximately 600 thousand Hungarian victims of the Holocaust. Prime Minister Orbán also reminded his guest that “Hungary has declared zero tolerance for anti-Semitism” and that the government, which has done more against anti-Semitism in Hungary than any of its predecessors, will continue to live up to that commitment.

In response and in a direct reference to recent events and charges of anti-Semitism, Netanyahu said that Prime Minister Orbán "reassured me in unequivocal terms. I appreciate that. These are important words."

The Israeli prime minister underlined the importance of history in the relationship between the two nations but emphasized the future.

“In Hungary was born our modern Moses,” said PM Netanyahu, referring to Tivadar Herzl, who had foreseen the troubles awaiting European Jewry in the 20th century. “It is probably inconceivable to think of the Jewish state, the state of Israel today if it weren’t for that man born here in 1860.”

“[W]e recognize the past,” he said, “as we seize the future.”

The historic bilateral meeting introduced a new chapter of cooperation between the two countries with the two governments signing agreements on cooperation in the fields of culture, innovation, industry 4.0 and self-driving automobiles. In the international context, both leaders emphasized the importance of national interests and the government’s duty to protect its citizens from external threats.

PM Orbán assured his Israeli counterpart that Hungary accepts their right to self-defense just as much as Hungary demands the right to self-defense against foreign pressure that calls for the relocation of illegal migrants to Hungary.

“Israel teaches the world and thus Hungarians, too, that we will lose that for which we do not fight,” Prime Minister Orbán said. “In the modern world, we have to struggle for everything.”

Following the bi-lateral meeting, Prime Minister Netanyahu joined Prime Minister Orbán for a meeting of the prime ministers of the Visegrád Four.

“I am pleased that today we could receive a committed patriot here in Budapest,” said Prime Minister Orbán, a long proponent of a strong Europe built from strong nation states. “Today, I am convinced that patriotic governments are successful governments. And the successful states will be those who do not quash national identities and national interests but perhaps instead put them first in their work.”