Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with recently elected French President Emmanuel Macron for the first time during a five day trip to Europe earlier this week. The Israeli Prime Minister also attended a series of meetings with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and other European leaders as they deepened economic cooperation with the Jewish State.
While in Paris, Netanyahu participated in a commemoration ceremony for the 75th anniversary of the Vel d’Hiv roundup, a mass-arrest of over 13,000 French Jews in 1942 in Nazi occupied France. Earlier this year, Marine Le Pen, Macron’s opponent in the French election, said France was not responsible for the tragedy. However, at Sunday’s ceremony Macron said, “It was France that organized the arrest, deportations and therefore the death of 13,152 people of Jewish faith; not a single German took part.”
After the ceremony Macron and Netanyahu discussed security and the fight against terrorism. Netanyahu shared his concerns about the Iranian regime and said he would like to see greater cooperation between Israel and France, but Macron assured him that he is vigilant regarding the nuclear accord reached by Western powers with Iran in 2015. Macron told Netanyahu that France supports a two-state solution and exclaimed that “We will not surrender to anti-Zionism, because it is a reinvention of anti-Semitism.”
Netanyahu then traveled to Hungary for a state visit, the first visit of a sitting Israeli prime minister to the country since the fall of communism in 1989. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Prime Minister Orban met along with the prime ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia, committing to improved relations between Israel and the EU. The leaders discussed renewing the EU-Israel Association Council, which would liberalize economic services, harmonize market regulations, and improve the process for cross-border investments. Orban asked the prime minister’s to work to convince Brussels to move along talks about renewing the EU-Israel Association agreement, without reference to the Palestinians.
Netanyahu’s visit to Hungary took place during a period of tension between Jews and the Hungarian government leader, who has been accused of encouraging anti-semitism. Less than a month ago Orban praised a Hitler ally, Hungary’s interwar leader Miklos Horthy, and he used an image of Jewish United States financier George Soros in an anti-immigration billboard campaign that many in the Hungarian Jewish community perceived as inspiring anti-semitic vandalism.
During their meeting, Orban promised he would protect Hungary’s Jewish community. Referring to Hungary’s cooperation with the Nazis during World War two, Orban called it “a sin” and vowed it would never happen again. “I made it clear to Prime Minister Netanyahu that the government will secure the Jewish minority and that we have zero tolerance to anti-semitism,” he said.