Netanyahu Congratulates Hungary's Orban After Landslide Reelection

PM previously discussed possibility of Israel hosting a meeting of the Visegrad group, four countries whose governments are considered the most right-wing in Europe

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Viktor Orban and Benjamin Netanyahu in Budapest, July 2017.
Viktor Orban and Benjamin Netanyahu in Budapest, July 2017.Credit: Haim Zach / GPO
Noa Landau

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday made a congratulatory phone call to newly re-elected Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and invited him to soon visit Israel. 

In the run-up to Sunday's parliamentary election, the most visible face in Orban's campaign was not the politician himself, but Hungarian-born financier and philanthropist George Soros, whose philanthropy aims to bolster liberal and open-border values.

Orban has long waged a nasty campaign against the 87-year-old, Jewish Soros, accusing him of plotting to take control of the country. 

Preliminary results put the Orban's Fidesz-KDNP coalition on track to win a two-thirds majority, enough to push through constitutional changes. It is thought to be likely that advocates for refugees and asylum-seekers will be among the first casualties of his drive to prevent Hungary from becoming an "immigrant country."

The right-wing nationalist projected himself as a savior of Hungary’s Christian culture against Muslim migration into Europe, an image which resonated with over 2.5 million voters, especially in rural areas.

Meanwhile, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said Hungary's election did not offer opposition parties a level playing field amid a host of problems marred a vote that nonetheless generally respected fundamental rights.

"Fundamental rights and freedoms were respected overall, but exercised in an adverse climate ... Access to information as well as the freedoms of the media and association have been restricted, including by recent legal changes," OSCE election monitor Douglas Wake told a news conference. 

On Monday, a spokesman for Fidesz said one of the first laws to be passed by the new parliament could be legislation that would empower the government to ban NGOs that support migration and pose a "national security risk". 

The proposed legislation, dubbed “Stop Soros” by the government before the vote, is part of Orban’s strident anti-immigration campaign targeting Soros.

On Monday, EU spokesman Margaritis Schinas said Jean-Claude Juncker, the head of the European Commission, will call Orban to discuss joint challenges faced by Hungary and the EU.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman said the German leader had congratulated Orban, promising that Germany will be a "reliable partner".

In February, Netanyahu met with Jozsef Czukor, a senior foreign policy adviser to Hungary’s Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto. The two discussed the possibility that Israel will host a meeting of the Visegrad group of nations, also known as the V4 – four Central European countries whose governments are considered the most right-wing in Europe. The four Visegrad countries are Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Back in July 2017, Netanyahu participated in the Visegrad summit held in Budapest and proposed that Israel host one of the V4’s regular meetings.

During the closed-session meeting last July, Netanyahu harshly criticized the European Union, saying the EU’s behavior toward Israel is crazy. Netanyahu’s remarks were accidentally transmitted to the headphones distributed to journalists, though his staff discovered the transmission and shut it down within a few minutes.

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