But despite Berlin joining the likes of France, Spain, Ireland and Belgium, which have strongly pushed for measures against violent Israeli extremist settlers in the West Bank, the EU is stuck. The smaller and geopolitically less relevant Hungary and the Czech Republic are holding up their defense of Israel’s actions, including refusing to agree on sanctions against settlers, which will be discussed again by EU diplomats on Wednesday, two EU diplomats said. Officials from Hungary and the Czech Republic did not respond to a request for comment.


Does Hungary have anything to gain from defending Israel's actions in Gaza? I thought it was really weird, because historically Germany was a much bigger ally of Israel than Hungary ever was, and Hungary was always pro-Russian than any country in Western Europe, but here the roles are reversed and Hungary is defending Israel tooth and nail when Russia itself isn't siding with Israel on this. Is there anything Hungary may possibly gain from doing this?

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    There is some value in simply not falling in line, no matter what the topic is. It does allow you to extract some demands that are unrelated to the topic. See US house.
    – uberhaxed
    Commented Feb 24 at 20:05
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    The article is a bit confusing on this point, but the West Bank and Gaza are two completely separate places, and there are no Israeli settlers in the latter. (There were at one point, but Israel pulled them out in 2005.) So the issue in that paragraph is not particularly related to the war in Gaza, except insofar as the war is bringing all things Israeli–Palestinian to the fore.
    – ruakh
    Commented Feb 25 at 6:19
  • It's also good to keep in mind that Hungary currently isn't in favour with the EU thanks to breeches of EU law, and thus has its EU funding frozen. Hungary fairly routinely uses its veto to block EU legislation in order to force concessions from the EU. So while they might more general goals with these sort of blocks, their current relationship with the EU also informs a lot of their decision-making.
    – kenod
    Commented Feb 26 at 8:47
  • Don't feel like inviting the inevitable sh#tstorm by posting an answer, but firstly (and less crucially) it's in line with Budapest's opposition to sanctions in general - leaving aside the merits of that stance, it's at least consistent. Secondly for Hungary this would be primarily a horse-trading / favor-bank move, since Israel is a powerful ally. Thirdly, there's a chance to work with opponents of the policy within countries who nominally support it. On the whole, Euro leaderships are uncomfortable to follow the logic of international law in this case, and this may save them the hardship.
    – Pete W
    Commented Feb 28 at 0:26

2 Answers 2


Beside the political alliance between Orbán and Netanyahu mentioned above, Hungary has the largest jewish community in Central-Europe and one of the largest in Europe (about 0.1 million). This large group of voters sympathises with Israel. On the other hand, it has one of the lowest muslim population (only a few thousand).

  • An interesting point, but I'm not sure if fully explains this. There are other countries in Europe with <1% Muslims, but perhaps that map is not discerning enough (in the low percentages) and Hungary is the most "Muslim free". For example, Iceland also seems to have <1% Muslims. But their position on the recent war for instance is more Ireland's. Commented Mar 13 at 21:12
  • It's true though that there seem to be hardly any Jews in Iceland. So, perhaps you're right and the ratio of Jews:Muslims needs to be considered. Alas I'm not able to find any maps like that quickly. Commented Mar 13 at 21:18

What would they have to gain by endorsing those measures criticizing Israel, in dissonance with all their efforts over the past decade?


July 2018

Right-wing newspapers in Hungary and Israel have carried reports and damning quotes from employees of civil rights NGOs, allegedly working with European partners in trying to influence legislation in the Hungarian parliament. It has all fed into the hysteria being whipped up by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party against refugees and those trying to help them. Earlier this month, Politico revealed that the Israeli company Black Cube carried out a sting operation designed to smear the nonprofits ahead of April’s parliamentary election. [...]

“Orbán and Netanyahu have joint values,” says the Hungarian government’s spokesman, Zoltán Kovács. “They share political pragmatism instead of dogmatic ideology. You can see it’s working. These two nations are facing similar challenges with similar solutions.” [...]

The legendary political strategist Arthur Finkelstein – master of the dark arts of negative campaigning, who created Netanyahu’s devastatingly effective “Peres will divide Jerusalem” slogan in the 1996 election – was recommended to Orbán and masterminded his 2010 reelection campaign. The New York State-based Finkelstein, who passed away last year, only made short, usually secret, appearances in the countries where he advised. But he would send his associates to supervise matters up close. The man Finkelstein sent as project manager for the 2010 Orbán campaign was his partner, George Birnbaum, who had previously lived in Israel and worked for Netanyahu as a senior aide in the ’90s. Members of the Chabad synagogue in central Budapest remember the Orthodox Birnbaum going there for prayers and Shabbat lunch, so he could be in walking distance of Orbán’s Saturday rallies.

Ties have been ongoing between Likud and Fidesz at various levels for years, with delegations from both parties visiting each other. A whole range of advisers, businesspeople and religious leaders also profit from the relationship. “I never imagined how tangled the web between Netanyahu and Orbán was,” says a senior Israeli official who recently worked on an issue of concern to both countries. “But the moment I became involved, I realized just how many millionaires and rabbis and opinion-makers are shuttling between Jerusalem and Budapest.” Ultimately, though, the relationship is down to the two leaders. [...]

Netanyahu has adopted the Orbán approach [to the EU]. While he is pro-EU whenever it comes to trade relations, he and his ministers have become increasingly aggressive when it comes to politics. This included refusing to meet with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini when she was scheduled to be in Jerusalem for a conference last month (Mogherini canceled her arrival as a result). [...]

“Major changes are happening in Europe. It is becoming less liberal and more nationalist,” says a senior Israeli diplomat. “Orbán is leading this change and Netanyahu has identified him as a key ally.”

"Similar challenges" include the EU, Muslims, and liberal Jews.

Netanyahu’s embrace of a man such as Orbán reveals a radical transformation in how Israeli leadership views its own mission, and his demonization of Soros reveals his own willingness to truck in antisemitic rhetoric to further his own political agenda. He can make common cause with Bannon or Orbán because their enemy is his enemy: liberals and Muslims. If Netanyahu’s left-wing Jewish critics are no longer seen as Jewish but rather as enemies of the Jewish people, then attacking Soros through a hook-nosed caricature is not antisemitic. Through this intellectual sleight of hand, people who might otherwise be seen as antisemites now become friends of Israel, while antisemitic attacks become legitimate criticism of Israel’s enemies. And so it is that the government of Israel, a state founded in large part to protect Jews from the evils of European antisemitism, is now fully in bed with some of its most virulent contemporary manifestations.

So to now go against all this shared history, Orbán expects EU to pay big (again), probably.

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    There's apparently still some €20 billion the EU is still withholding from Hungary, over LGBTQ and similar issues: "European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said around €20 billion ($21.7 billion) in EU funds remain out of Budapest's reach. Hungary called this unjust and claimed it was the victim of a political "witch hunt."" dw.com/en/eu-releases-funds-to-hungary-in-controversial-move/… Commented Feb 24 at 22:59

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