Israeli PM Beenjamin Netanyahu is slated to become the first Israeli prime minister to visit Hungary since the fall of the Iron Curtain 26 years ago. But next week’s three-day trip، hailed by both sides as an opportunity to further advance growing bilateral ties، is marred by bitter division over a controversy that emerged just this week، focusing on the Israeli government’s response to a Hungarian government campaign deemed “anti-Semitic، as the Times of Israel said.”
Hungarian Jews، and Israeli politicians from the opposition، have taken issue with Netanyahu’s too-gentle admonishment of a billboard campaign targeting Hungarian-born Jewish billionaire George Soros، while maintaining that criticism of the liberal philanthropist was legitimate، and his apparent dismissal of the Hungarian prime minister’s praise for the country’s fascist wartime leader and Hitler ally Miklos Horthy.
The Soros posters show a large picture of the Jewish businessman laughing، alongside the text: “Let’s not let Soros have the last laugh،” a reference to government claims that Soros wants to force Hungary to allow in migrants.
Leaders of Hungary’s 100،000-strong Jewish community have said the campaign is provoking anti-Semitism. In going ahead with the visit، critics have accused Netanyahu of putting Israel’s political and economic goals ahead of the concerns of the Hungarian-Jewish community.
Bilateral trade between Hungary and Israel exceeds $500 million، and Budapest recently opened a $50 million euro credit line at Hungary’s Eximbank to facilitate cooperation between Hungarian and Israeli businesses. Budapest has also expressed interest in purchasing Israeli natural gas.
“Hungary and Israel are very important political، academic and economic allies”، Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said last month during a visit in Jerusalem، as Netanyahu’s office indicated that Budapest and Jerusalem were looking to advance bilateral economic cooperation mainly in automotive technologies، energy، water and academics.