Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, after talks with Israel’s prime minister in Jerusalem on Thursday, said he and Benjamin Netanyahu share the same views about a variety of 21st-century issues such as security, the fight against terrorism, border protection and anti-Semitism.
At a joint press conference with Netanyahu, Orbán said he and his Israeli counterpart agree that security is the number one issue today and that all nations have a right to their own security and a duty to protect their citizens.
Europe today is suffering from migration and terrorism, and these problems should be combatted, Orbán said.
He also touched on the issue of modern-day anti-Semitism, saying it was a concern in Europe. “We’re living in a time when anti-Semitism is rising in western Europe but is on the decline in central Europe,” Orbán said.
The prime minister noted that Hungary still has a policy of zero tolerance for anti-Semitism.
Hungary’s Jewish community is protected by the government, Orbán said. “We’re proud that people who openly identify as Jewish can feel safe in Hungary.”
Orbán said his government has “done a lot” to rebuild Jewish culture in Hungary, noting that the government has supported the renovation of synagogues and Jewish education.
He said Hungary was ready to cooperate with Israel in combatting anti-Semitism.
Hungary always urges international organisations to apply a fair and balanced approach to Israel, Orbán said, adding that the two countries will continue to cooperate closely at international forums.
As regards economic relations, the prime minister said bilateral economic cooperation was strong. He said there are 200 Israeli companies present in Hungary, mainly in the tech industry, employing some 5,000 people.
Orban asked Netanyahu to support the Hungarian Cultural Season to be organised in Israel next year.
He also asked his Israeli colleague to support the establishment of a museum for the Hungarian-speaking community in Israel. “We’re not asking for money, just goodwill and support,” he said.
Orbán noted that Netanyahu had paid a visit to Budapest last summer, and underscored the importance of his reciprocation of that visit coincides with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding.
He also noted that Hungary and Israel will be celebrating the 30th anniversary of the re-establishment of diplomatic ties next year.
Orbán is scheduled to meet President Reuven Rivlin later on Thursday. He will then meet David Lau, the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi, before visiting the Yad Vashem Memorial Center, where he will lay a wreath and plant a tree in the Grove of Nations.
Netanyahu noted that Hungary backed the UN resolution condemning anti-Semitism. The Hungarian government has also allocated 10 billion forints (EUR 31m) for the renovation of synagogues, he added.
While not large countries, Hungary and Israel are “big on ambition, talent and intellectual ability”, Netanyahu said. Bilateral economic ties, which already thrive in several sectors, have a lot of potential, he said.
Netanyahu also addressed the issue of radical Islam. “We both understand that radical Islam is a real threat to Europe, the whole world, us and our Arab neighbours.”
The main source of militant Islam is Iran, he said, adding that Israel is in the frontline of the fight against radical Islam, “in many ways protecting Europe, too”.
Netanyahu thanked Hungary for “protecting Israel” and for “standing by Israel again and again in international forums”. An important aim of Israeli foreign policy is to change how Israel is treated by international organisations and bilaterally, he said, adding that Hungary often played a leading role in this effort.
Last July, Budapest hosted a summit between Israel and the Visegrad Group, he noted, adding he had “fond memories” of that visit. Orban is “a true friend of Israel”, Netanyahu said.