Hungary Backs Talks Based on Trump's Mideast Plan, Foreign Minister Says in Israel

Visiting Jerusalem, Peter Szijjarto also says Israel and Hungary are among the three countries 'most attacked by international organizations or by global mainstream media'

Noa Landau
Noa Landau
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Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, left, and his Israeli counterpart, Gabi Ashkenazi, in Jerusalem, July 20, 2020.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, left, and his Israeli counterpart, Gabi Ashkenazi, in Jerusalem, July 20, 2020.Credit: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said Monday that U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace proposal has the best chance to make progress between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

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“If we are honest, we can say that there were a lot of plans and ideas how to get there, but all of these plans have failed, and now the plan of the White House, of President Trump or Jared Kushner, does have the best chance ever so far to be a basis for forward progress here in the Middle East when it comes to peace and security,” Szijjarto said.

“That’s why, I think we need to be patient, we have to see how this plan can work out, and instead of judging it, we should be in favor of the negotiations based on that plan, and we hope that all parties will sit around the negotiating table,” Szijjarto said, speaking to reporters in Jerusalem at a press briefing with Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.

Under Trump’s plan, Israel would be able to annex around 30 percent of the West Bank.

Hungary under Prime Minister Viktor Orban is considered the greatest supporter of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in the European Union. Hungary is also the only country that tends to support Israel regarding a West Bank annexation.

Szijjarto added that Hungary would “continue to stay committed to stand for Israel, to stand for a fair and balanced approach towards Israel in the international organizations regardless of all kinds of pressure we do have to face.”

As he put it, “If there is a competition among countries who are the most attacked by international organizations or by global mainstream media, then Israel and Hungary definitely would be among the top three for sure.

“And I can tell you that this comes during times when we can say that we never had such good and such intensive relations between the two countries as currently.

“But we have to be aware that there are a lot of, let’s say, forces who are interested in us creating quarrels between each other.

“But after today’s meeting with Gabi, I have to disappoint all these forces, given the fact that we can continue to count on each other and rely on each other in international issues.”

According to Szijjarto, “We will never support biased resolutions and decisions against Israel, be it in the European Union, be it in the United Nations, and the same applies when it comes to possible sanction regimes against your country.

“And we have not accepted and we do not accept the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction regarding Israel.”

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban arriving for an EU summit in Brussels, July 20, 2020.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban arriving for an EU summit in Brussels, July 20, 2020.Credit: Stephanie Lecocq / pool photo via AP

Ashkenazi thanked Szijjarto for Hungary’s strong support of Israel in Europe and at the United Nations.

Ashkenazi also discussed Iran’s nuclear plans and precision missiles, in light of Hungary’s membership on the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Ashkenazi said he had expressed Israel’s concerns about Iran’s breaches of its obligations regarding its nuclear program.

He said the solution to these breaches would be a complete withdrawal from the big powers’ 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, adding that he expected Hungary to support this policy.

In May, Szijjarto released a statement of support of Israel, opposing the position of many EU countries regarding annexation.

On Monday, Szijjarto said that he and Ashkenazi had agreed that Hungary and Israel shared the values of patriotism, which include the importance of sovereignty and opposition to illegal immigration – though his ministry later issued a clarification.

Ashkenazi’s office had sought the change, saying these issues had not been discussed in their talk. The Hungarian Foreign Ministry blamed a translation mistake.

Ashkenazi, though, said he “appreciates Hungary’s position at Israel’s side in the European Union and other international forums.”

This month the foreign ministers of 11 European countries sent a letter demanding that EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell quickly draw up a list of possible responses to an Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank. The ministers expressed concern that “the window to deter annexation is fast closing.”

The letter, a copy of which was obtained by Haaretz, was signed by the foreign ministers of France, Italy, the Netherlands, Ireland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Portugal and Malta.

At that same time, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson phoned Netanyahu to urge him to halt steps toward annexation. The phone calls came on top of the opposition they voiced in letters sent when Netanyahu’s latest government was sworn in this spring.

Responding to Merkel, Macron and Johnson, Netanyahu said he considered the Trump plan a realistic peace plan and was willing to negotiate with the Palestinians based on it.

Szijjarto on Monday also met with Netanyahu, who in a statement “expressed hope that relations between Jerusalem and Budapest will grow even stronger in the coming years.” The two also discussed Iran.

Also Monday, two documents were signed by both foreign ministers and Israel’s science, technology and space minister, Izhar Shay. One is a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in a program under which from 2020 to 2023, the Hungarian government will underwrite 50 scholarships for Israeli students annually.

The other agreement is a declaration of intent on collaboration in space projects.

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