Israel on Sunday indicated that all was forgiven after receiving an official explanation concerning Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s praise for Miklos Horthy, the Second World War-era leader who allied Hungary with Nazi Germany leading to the deportation and murder of half a million Jews.
Orban’s statements, made during a speech he gave on June 21 in which he described Horthy and other Hungarian leaders as “exceptional statesmen” for leading the country after the traumatic disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after the First World War, raised the ire of Israeli officials and Jewish groups.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is scheduled to visit Hungary for a meeting with Orban on July 18 and the comments had created tension ahead of the visit.
Orban’s comments were criticised by Andras Heiszler, president of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities, the country’s EJC affiliate, who said the Horthy era’s antisemitism “cannot be put as an example for future generations.”
Israeli Ambassdor to Hungary Yossi Armani aired his grievances on a Hungarian national television station last week. On Saturday, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto spoke by phone with Armani and then published a statement detailing the content of the conversation.
Szijjarto said he assured the Israeli envoy that the Hungarian government has “zero tolerance for antisemitism.” Concerning Horthy, the foreign minister said that he had “positive periods but also very negative periods.”
“We need to respect historical facts that clearly point to that,” Szijjarto said.
Referring to Horthy’s failure to protect the Jewish population during the war and his passing of antisemitic laws, the foreign minister said “all those are historical transgressions the seriousness of which can’t be diminished.”
In response, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said the explanation was sufficient.
Opposition MK Ksenia Svetlova of the Zionist Union, nonetheless, called on Netanyahu to cancel his trip to Hungary, Haaretz reported.
“Just like you dared to cancel your meeting with the German foreign minister after he met with Breaking the Silence, I demand that you cancel your visit to Hungary and your meeting with Viktor Orban, who expressed admiration for the dark past of his country during the Shoah, and not for the first time,” she demanded.