Austrian Chancellor, Whose Deputy's Party Has anti-Semitic Roots, Expected to Visit Israel in June

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Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz attends a news conference after a cabinet meeting in Vienna, Austria April 18, 2018.
Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz attends a news conference after a cabinet meeting in Vienna, April 18, 2018.Credit: \ LEONHARD FOEGER/ REUTERS

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is expected to visit Israel in early June.

The 31-year-old head of state, who is chairman of the conservative Austrian People's Party, met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in February on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference – the first meeting between the two since Kurz was elected and formed a coalition with the far-right Freedom Party. The Freedom Party's leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, was appointed deputy chancellor. Critics of the far-right party claim that it has never gotten away from its anti-Semitic and Nazi roots.

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In the past, Strache himself posted an anti-Semitic cartoon on his Facebook page, and made use of a slogan with Nazi concepts on his campaign poster. Nevertheless, he has been attempting to present himself as a supporter of Israel in recent years. He has expressed support for moving the Austrian Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as well as for Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank. He has visited Israel several times in recent years, meeting with senior members of Netanyahu’s Likud party and touring the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum.

Netanyahu, who also holds the foreign affairs portfolio, said in December that Israel will boycott Austria's far-right ministers, instructing Israeli ministers to work only with lower-ranking officials.

In March, Netanyahu commended Kurz for promising to fight against anti-Semitism. “We see great importance in his intention to advance several cabinet decisions regarding education and commemorating the Holocaust,” said the prime minister.