Israeli Right-wing Lawmaker to Meet Leader of Austrian Party With Nazi Roots

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MK Yehuda Glick speaks during an interview with The Associated Press at the Knesset in Jerusalem, June 2, 2016.
MK Yehuda Glick speaks during an interview with The Associated Press at the Knesset in Jerusalem, June 2, 2016. Credit: AP/Sebastian Scheiner

MK Yehuda Glick (Likud) is planning to meet Heinz-Christian Strache, the head of Austria’s Freedom Party who was appointed as Austria’s vice-chancellor a month and a half ago.

Glick told Haaretz that he was invited by Strache and by Austria’s new foreign minister Karin Kneissl, who was appointed to her post by Strache’s party, as a professional appointment. The meeting, which will take place in two weeks, will be the first meeting between an Israeli elected official and Strache since the latter assumed his new post.

Glick refused to elaborate on the upcoming meeting. He said on Twitter that he was happy to meet one of Israel’s most senior friends in Europe. Jerusalem has not yet adopted a clear stand regarding meetings between senior Israeli officials and the new vice-chancellor, who heads a party with Nazi roots. Foreign ministry officials clarified that the government would continue to maintain professional working relations with the Austrian government despite the inclusion of the extreme right-wing party in the coalition.

MK Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union) sharply criticized the proposed meeting. “Meetings with leaders of anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi parties lend legitimacy to activists who wink to Israel with one eye while nodding at Israel-haters,” she said.

"Such meetings are insulting and dismissive towards the victims and survivors, as well as to people who fought the Nazis," Svetlova added.

Svetlova has drafted a bill which would deny entry into Israel to people who deny the Holocaust or who have uttered anti-Semitic expressions. She says that no Knesset member on the right whom she’s approached has agreed to support her.

The last time the Freedom Party joined the ruling coalition in Austria, in 2000, Israel responded vigorously: it returned home its ambassador in Vienna and reduced the level of its relations with Austria. Nowadays things are different, since Strache has managed in recent years to make some powerful friends among Israel’s right-wing settlers, partly based on his promise to move Austria’s embassy to Jerusalem and on his support for construction in the settlements.

Strache has visited Israel on at least three occasions in recent years, meeting senior Likud officials and touring the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum. On his last visit, in 2016, former president Shimon Peres refused to meet him, based on a foreign ministry recommendation.