Hungarian Foreign Minister: Embassy in Israel Will Not Be Moved to Jerusalem

Peter Szijjarto says his country's embassy will remain in Tel Aviv, in keeping with international law and EU policy

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, with Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orbán in Budapest, Hungary, July 18, 2017.
Balazs Mohai/AP

Hungary's Embassy in Israel will remain in Tel Aviv and will not be moved to Jerusalem, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told the Israel Hayom daily in an interview that was published Wednesday, a day after his country dedicated a new commercial office in Jerusalem.

Hungary has not changed its overall approach regarding the location of the embassy in Tel Aviv, the foreign minister said. His country's position, he added, is to maintain international law and to conform its stance to that of the European Union, of which Hungary is a member.

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Although Jerusalem is Israel's capital, the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as their future capital. There is a European Union consensus opposing any move by EU member states of their embassies in Israel to Jerusalem, based on the position that the city's final status will only be determined through agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.

The EU also maintains that unilateral steps, such as U.S. President Donald Trump's decision last year to move the American embassy to Jerusalem, should be avoided.

In recent years, the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has forged closer ties with the government of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is viewed in Europe as an extreme right-wing figure.

Orban has been curbing democratic freedoms in his country through draconian legislation, limitations on civil society activity as well as control of the media and the court system.

The Hungarian premier has been waging a high-profile campaign against Hungarian-born Jewish billionaire George Soros, who has provided financial support for human rights organizations in Hungary.

The campaign is perceived by many Hungarian Jews as anti-Semitic, but nonethless Netanyahu has been bolstering ties with Orban in an effort to undermine the consensus among EU states in support of a two-state solution to Israel's conflict with the Palestinians.

Orban party election poster showing the portraits of European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker and Hungarian-born US investor and philanthropist George Soros. Budapest, Feb 26, 2019
AFP

An anti-Soros billboard campaign prompted condemnation from the Israeli embassy in Budapest amid concern among Hungarian Jews that it was fomenting anti-Semtism. Netanyahu later had a clarification issued on the matter to emphasize that, while the embassy's condemnation of anti-Semitism stood, “in no way was the statement meant to delegitimize criticism of George Soros, who continuously undermines Israel’s democratically elected governments by funding organizations that defame the Jewish state and seek to deny it the right to defend itself.”

Guatemala only country to follow U.S. lead

With regard to relocation of embassies in Israel to Jerusalem, since the American embassy was moved from Tel Aviv last June, only Guatemala has followed suit. Paraguay moved its embassy but reversed the decision just months later.

Despite efforts on Netanyahu's part, the countries of the European Union have remained united on the issue. EU countries such as Hungary, Austria and Romania, which have made promises regarding moving their embassy to Israel's capital, have not followed through, toeing the line with the European position. The Czech Republic, which is also a European Union member, has opened a cultural center in Jerusalem.

Honduras has promised to move its embassy, in exchange for economic assistance and Israeli mediation regarding the Central American country's ties with the United States, but the move has not yet taken place. Brazil, whose new president, Jair Bolsonaro, has also made statements in support for moving his country's embassy, is not expected to formally announce such a move on his forthcoming visit to Israel at the end of this month.

Australia, whose evangelical Christian prime minister, Scott Morrison, has made comments in support of a move of his country's embassy, ultimately transferred only its commercial section and recognizing West Jerusalem but not the entire city as Israel's capital. The Philippines has expressed support in principle for moving its embassy to Jerusalem but has also not yet done so.