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Statements by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán Photo by Haim Zach (GPO)
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Statements by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán

18 July 2017

Statements by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán

(Communicated by the Prime Minister's Media Adviser)


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, today (Tuesday, 18 July 2017), after their meeting at the Hungarian Parliament in Budapest, issued the following joint statements:


Hungarian Prime Minister Orban:


"I would like to shortly summarize all that we have discussed with His Excellency, the Prime Minister. First of all, I would like to inform the public opinion of Hungary that the Prime Minister of the State of Israel during the course of his visit has expressed the respect of Israel towards Hungary and I have reassured His Excellency of the sincere respect of Hungary towards the State of Israel.


We have found that the basis for all intergovernmental relations is mutual respect, and this is what we will continue to adhere to.


During the course of the past twenty-odd years of the modern democracy in Hungary, this is the first time that we have the honor of hosting the prime minister of the State of Israel on an official visit. The purpose is to consolidate and to fortify the relationship of the two countries for a long time to come.


We all know, and His Excellency, the Prime Minister, also knows that there is a sizable Jewish minority living in Hungary. I made it very clear to the Prime Minister that their security, being Hungarian citizens that they are, will be fully guaranteed by the Hungarian state. I’ve also made it very clear to the Prime Minister that the Hungarian government has a zero tolerance policy against all forms of anti-Semitism. I have also shared with the Prime Minister that there is a renaissance of Jewish life here in Hungary today. And this is something that we are proud of. We believe, we think that the renaissance of Jewish life is a substantial contribution to the common achievements of the Hungarian nation quite clearly.


We also mentioned, touched upon history. Well, when you have a meeting of this sort, this is not something that is inevitable, but it’s also perhaps desirable that we discuss history. So I told the Prime Minister that we are aware of the fact that we have quite a difficult chapter of history behind us. And I wanted to make it very clear to him that the Government of Hungary, in a previous period, committed a mistake, even committed a sin, when it did not protect the Jewish citizens of Hungary.


I want to make it clear that it is our belief that every single Hungarian government has the obligation to protect and defend all of its citizens, regardless of their birth and origins.


During World War II, this was something, a requirement that Hungary did not live up to, both morally or in other ways. And this is a sin, because we decided back then, instead of protecting the Jewish community, to collaborate with the Nazis.


I made it very clear to the Prime Minister that this is something that can never, ever happen again, that the Hungarian government will in the future protect all its citizens.


What concerns the future, esteemed ladies and gentlemen, this visit opens a new chapter.


We really had a very thorough discussion with the Prime Minister about the opportunities for this future that we have ahead of us. We agreed that the potential in the collaboration, cooperation, is not fully exploited in terms of our cooperation. We both agreed that Jewish-Hungarian cooperation should be about the future. We agreed that security is going to be the most important. I expressed my gratitude to the Prime Minister for his efforts and for the efforts of Israel that they are contributing with to the security of Europe.


We both agreed that we have to put an end to the increasing anti-Semitism in Europe. We need to have a very firm policy against this.


On the part of the Hungarian government, I made it very clear that we respect and acknowledge the right of Israel to self-defense, and this is something we also believe of ourselves, that we would like our self-defense to be acknowledged by others.


I have made it clear that we are in a serious, substantial debate with the European Union, because we do not want to have a mixed population. We do not want to change the ethnic mix in this country by any artificial outside pressure. We would just like to remain the way we are, even if I have to admit that we are not perfect.


Esteemed ladies and gentlemen, we also touched upon economic cooperation. The Prime Minister suggested that instead of just going with the usual bureaucratic approach, we should really have a business-like or project-based approach. We designated a few areas where we will especially urge our businessmen to actually collaborate, cooperate: hi-tech, automotive industry, which are both experiencing an advent.


We discussed cultural, educational and scientific cooperation, and I do believe that we have made important strides in perhaps making our contacts more dense and our bonds stronger.


All in all, I can say to you that Hungary was very happy to actually welcome a dedicated patriot here in Hungary. I am convinced that patriotic governments are nowadays the successful governments in the world, and successful countries in the future will be the ones which do not disregard national identity, national interests, instead keep it in the forefront of their action.


There’s a lot for us to learn from Israel, ladies and gentlemen, because Israel teaches the world and us also that if you don’t fight for something, you will lose it, because nowadays, you have to fight for everything in the modern world."


Prime Minister Netanyahu:


"Thank you, Prime Minister Orbán, for this very warm welcome. I am honored to be the first Israeli sitting prime minister to have an official visit to Hungary. It’s quite astounding that it didn’t happen before. It’s about time. And it’s wonderful to be here on this first time.


When I come to Hungary, the first thing I think about, before anything else, is that Hungary was the, in many ways, the birth of modern Zionism, the movement that led to the establishment of the modern Jewish state because in Hungary was born our modern Moses, Theodore Herzl. And I intend to visit on this visit the site of his home. It is probably inconceivable to think of the Jewish state, the State of Israel today, if it weren’t for that man born here in 1860, who envisioned the rebirth of the Jewish state and who saw in his mind’s-eye also the great challenges that would be posed anti-Semitism. He thought that this ultimately was the best solution for the Jewish people.


Now, since that time, obviously, the Jewish people have suffered great tragedy. We’ve overcome it. You’ve alluded to it. And also, the people of Hungary faced great struggles, and you’ve overcome it. You have, we have both built modern, vibrant states. We recognize the past as we seize the future. The future I think belongs to those countries who innovate. Israel is an innovation nation. Hungary is a country with great, great talents. And we believe that this partnership, along the lines that Prime Minister Orbán discussed, I think these are the ways to proceed.


Tomorrow, there is going to be a meeting here of CEOs from both countries. They’ll meet to discuss economic and business terms. Prime Minister Orbán and I also discussed cooperating on areas such as cyber and areas of security, which are important for both countries. And of course this will… I am sure that this will get a practical boost from this visit. Of course we are going to instruct our – and we have – our respective people to make sure that this happens. But the idea is not to stay where we are, but to move forward. I think there is a great future for both of us. I know that technology by itself, Prime Minister, my experience, is not enough. It’s a requisite, but it’s not sufficient. What you need to make economies grow is reforms, market reforms. We discussed this many years ago. You called me and you said, “We’d like to learn from your experience.” And I actually sent somebody there to tell you at least what we were doing. I have since followed what you have been doing. And obviously there has been a growth of both of our economies, and I think together we can do even more. And this is, I think, the result of this visit.


We’re also going to deepen cultural ties to bring our peoples closer. Many Israelis come here. I invite Hungarians to come to Israel. You have a beautiful country. We have a beautiful country. I think we should visit each other.


I discussed with Prime Minister Orbán the concerns that I heard raised from the Jewish community. He reassured me in unequivocal terms, just as he did now, publicly. I appreciate that. These are important words.


And I also want to thank you, Prime Minister, for standing up for Israel in international forums. You’ve done that time and again. We appreciate this stance, not only because it’s standing with Israel, but it’s also standing with the truth. And I believe that Emanuel Macron, whom I visited with yesterday, two days ago, said something very important. He said there’s a new anti-Semitism that is expressed in anti-Zionism, that is, in delegitimizing the one and only Jewish state. In many ways, Hungary is at the forefront of the states that are opposed to this anti-Jewish policy, and I welcome it. I express the appreciation of my government and the people, many people in Israel, for this.


Equally, I want to say that I look forward to the opportunity tomorrow to meet with the Visegrad Group. Thank you for inviting me. Thank you for hosting this group, to invite me to speak to this group, because I believe that we have many, many common interests. So for all these reasons, I want to say thank you for this invitation and I look forward to our discussions."