Budapest, Hungary – Following a summit with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the leaders of Hungary and Slovakia announced both countries would open offices with diplomatic status in Jerusalem.
“I just informed the Prime Minister that the Hungarian government decided that we will open up a trade representation here”, Hungary’s PM Viktor Orban said. Slovakia, meanwhile, is due to open a “new cultural, information and innovation center” in Jerusalem, according to Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini, who replaced long-time Slovak PM Robert Fico last year.
“After months of efforts that I have led, today we have a very important achievement”, Benjamin Netanyahu said, calling this “a sign of (…) friendship” between Israel and the two Central European countries.
This announcement comes only months after the Czech Republic, whose Prime Minister Andrej Babis also attended this week’s meeting, officially inaugurated a Czech House in Jerusalem for trade and tourism affairs. Czech President Milos Zeman had previously described this as “a precursor to the transfer of the Czech embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem”.
For months, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been trying to forge closer ties with the Visegrad Group countries, seen as strong potential allies to promote and defend Israel’s interests at the EU level. Although falling short from moving the embassies from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem, these announcements represent a significant win for Netanyahu, who has been trying to convince countries all around the world to move their official diplomatic representation to Jerusalem.
Hungary and Slovakia’s decision also highlights growing divisions within the EU, which doesn’t officially recognizes the Holy City as the capital city of Israel. After the Trump administration announced the U.S. would open its embassy in Jerusalem, several European countries, including Hungary and the Czech Republic, blocked the EU resolution condemning Washington’s move.
Initially, all four leaders of the Visegrad Group were supposed to attend the summit in Jerusalem this week. But Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki pulled out at the last minute after Netanyahu, while attending a summit in Warsaw last week, was reported to have said that “Poles cooperated with the Germans” during the Holocaust. The diplomatic crisis further deepened after Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said that “Poles suckle anti-semitism from their mother’s breasts”, sparking outrage in Poland.
After Poland cancelled its participation to the Israel trip, the summit was then turned into a series of bilateral meetings between Israel and the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia.