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For First Time Since Israel Boycotts Far-right Party, Netanyahu Meets Austria's Kurz, Diplomats Confirm

Israeli prime minister met with leader in Munich, despite Jerusalem's boycott of Austrian ministers from party with Nazi roots

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz met on the sidelines of the security conference in Munich. Feb 16, 2018
Amos Ben Gershom, GPO

MUNICH - Austrian diplomats have confirmed Friday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz met on the sidelines of the security conference in Munich this weekend.

Addressing reporters after their meeting, Netanyahu said he and Kurz met at Kurz's request. “He has told me about all the measures they are taking against anti-Semitism and for Israel. [Kurz] said he intends to change Austria’s voting record at the the UN and that he also intends to support Israel's candidacy for the UN Security Council. A very friendly meeting, I think he spoke to the point,” Netanyahu said.

This was the first meeting between the two since Kurz was elected to lead Austria and formed a coalition with the far-right Freedom Party. Following the formation, Israel decided to boycott ministers from the party, which has Nazi roots.  

Last week, MK Yehuda Glick from Netanyahu's Likud party met with Austrian Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache and Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl, both members of the Freedom Party, despite the boycott. 

Strache, who was appointed as Austria’s vice-chancellor in December, heads the FPO, which is known for its anti-Semitic and Nazi roots. Critics say the party has not yet relieved itself from its past, while Strache has been trying to present himself as pro-Israel in recent years.

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The Austrian government took office at the end of last year, following two months of negotiations between Kurz, who heads the center-right People's Party, and Strache. When Strache's party joined a coalition government in 2000, Israel recalled its ambassador and downgraded relations.

Announcing the boycott in December, a statement by Israel's Foreign Ministry noted that Netanyahu had a direct line of communication with the Austrian chancellor.

Kurz, for his part, accepted Israel's boycott, saying it will be his party's "task to do a good job at home as well as convince abroad," and that he is "optimistic" that they will succeed to "dispel all concerns."