Budapest, Hungary – On Tuesday, Hungary opened a diplomatic trade mission to Israel in West Jerusalem, becoming the first European nation to open an office with diplomatic status in the Holy City.
Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban pledged to open a diplomatic mission in Jerusalem a few weeks ago, during a meeting with his Israeli, Czech and Slovak counterparts. Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini also said his country would open a mission in the near future, while the Czech Republic inaugurated a ‘Czech House’, to deal with trade and tourism matters, in Jerusalem several months ago.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony of the trade mission, which is expected to house three Hungarian diplomats, was attended by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto who pointed out that “economic, trade and investment relations between Hungary and Israel are expanding dynamically”.
This Jerusalem trade office will function as a branch of the Hungarian embassy, located in Tel-Aviv.
Netanyahu praised the move of Hungarian authorities, arguing that “it’s important for trade, for diplomacy and for the movement being led by Hungary to change the way Jerusalem is viewed in Europe”. Hailing this as “the first European diplomatic mission opened in Jerusalem in many decades”, he thanked PM Orban for keeping his promise.
Netanyahu, who was recently involved in a dispute with Poland over comments he made about the Holocaust, congratulated Hungary for “fighting falsehoods and slanders” and “its stance against antisemitism, which has been robust, important and consistent”.
Although Viktor Orban has faced criticism for his anti-Semitic rhetoric and policies at home, the Hungarian and Israeli PM have bolstered ties between the two countries in recent years. “The populist alliance with Israel is more than a marriage of convenience and strategic calculation”, argued Ivan Krastev in The New York Times a few days ago, writing that “Benjamin Netanyahu provides a very attractive model” for Viktor Orban and Central European nationalist governments.
Netanyahu, meanwhile, sees Central European states as natural allies to break the EU consensus on the status of Jerusalem. A strategy that has already paid off to some extent, when Hungary, along with Romania and the Czech Republic, blocked an EU resolution condemning the U.S. decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem last year.