Meeting of the minds: Benjamin Netanyahu and the Visegrád 4

Even though many analysts are talking about the impending disintegration of the Visegrád 4 regional alliance, Benjamin Netanyahu decided to use it for his own political ends. The glue that holds the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia together is their determination to keep immigrants and asylum seekers out of their countries. In addition, the Polish and Hungarian governments work hand in hand against the “Brussels bureaucrats” who allegedly want to create a United States of Europe in which national differences will disappear. Both governments refuse to abide by the rules of the European Union while enjoying its financial benefits. Benjamin Netanyahu’s appearance at the Visegrád Four’s Budapest summit gave a huge boost to the anti-migrant policies of these countries and added fuel to the anti-EU posture of Poland and Hungary.

Thanks to an open microphone, we have a fair idea of how the Israeli prime minister wants to use the Visegrád 4. What we could hear was a “blistering attack” on the European Union. It is a well-known fact that Netanyahu has a “barely disguised contempt” for the EU, which often criticizes Israel over issues of the Jewish settlements and Netanyahu’s reluctance to continue the peace process. The Guardian described his remarks as bombastic, predicting the sad end of the European Union which may “shrivel and disappear,” especially if it doesn’t change its attitude toward the present Israeli government. “The European Union is the only association of countries in the world that conditions the relations with Israel, which produces technology in every area, on political conditions.” After this tirade he came to the real reason why he decided to accept Viktor Orbán’s invitation: “I think that if I can suggest that what comes out of this meeting is your ability perhaps to communicate to your colleagues in other parts of Europe: Help Europe … don’t undermine the one western country that defends European values and European interests and prevents another mass migration to Europe.” In fact, according to Netanyahu, “Europe ends in Israel [which] has no greater friends than the Christians who support Israel around the world.” He made it clear that he was talking not only about fundamentalist Christians.

What a happy crowd

The meeting was a real success. The prime ministers of the Visegrád 4 countries were impressed with Netanyahu and liked what they heard. At the end of the meeting he posted the following message on his Facebook page: “I’m happy the Visegrad Group accepted my invitation to hold its next summit in Israel. As the Jewish people say: Next year in Jerusalem!”

Haaretz, not exactly a supporter of the present Israeli government, called the leaked speech “bigheaded Euro-bashing … politically savvy and diplomatically demented” considering that the EU is Israel’s most important trading partner. As for using the Visegrád 4 to reshape the other member countries’ assessment of Netanyahu’s policies on settlements and the whole Palestinian issue, I have my doubts. Both Poland and Hungary are under a cloud in Brussels at the moment. It may just happen that both countries will face concerted efforts in the European Parliament to invoke Article 7 against them for gross transgressions of the basic values the European Union. As for the Czech Republic and Slovakia, they might not be willing to follow the lead of Poland and Hungary when it comes to confrontation with the EU. But as of now, it seems that Netanyahu achieved what he went to the Hungarian capital for.

From the descriptions of the events of the last two or three days, Viktor Orbán was in a fine mood, basking in the glory of being the host of such an important gathering. One can always read Viktor Orbán’s state of mind on such occasions. He can look glum, as when Angela Merkel visited Budapest, or radiant, as during Putin’s first trip to Hungary when he was light-hearted and relaxed.

By tonight, however, when he and Netanyahu paid a visit to the famous synagogue on Dohány utca where they met with the leaders of Mazsihisz (Alliance of Hungarian Jewish Congregations) his good mood may have been dampened. President András Heisler didn’t hide the Hungarian Jewish community’s criticism of Viktor Orbán’s anti-Soros campaign as well as Benjamin Netanyahu’s disregard of the Hungarian Jewry’s fears of anti-Semitism that the thousands of anti-Soros posters provoked. He also brought up the Hungarian government’s ambiguous attitude toward the Holocaust, although he was pleased that Orbán talked about the sin the Hungarian government committed at the time of the Holocaust. Turning to Netanyahu, he said that the disavowal of the Israeli ambassador’s statement on the Soros campaign came as a “cold shower” to him and his co-religionists. He emphasized that only a strong Jewish diaspora can help Israel effectively. Finally, he addressed Orbán and told him that Mazsihisz is ready to work with the Hungarian government when there is an agreement of views between them. I may add that this is not too often the case. Orbán didn’t respond to Heisler’s comments.

This oversized hat is the one Orbán puts on for appropriate occasions

I’m not sure whether too many observers will pay attention to one of the sentences in Heisler’s speech in which he talked about the importance of the unity of Hungarian Jewry and indicated that there are forces that are trying to sow discord among them. Indeed, the Orbán government has its favorite Jews: Rabbi Slomó Köves and his Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation (EMIH). The name of this Jewish group is highly misleading because it is an ultra-Orthodox group affiliated with the Chabad movement that has no deep roots in the Hungarian Jewish past. As opposed to Mazsihisz’s Heisler, EMIH’s Köves didn’t find that Orbán’s campaign against Soros had anything to do with anti-Semitism. Given his very strong relations, even financial, with the Orbán government, his position on the subject is not at all surprising. So, I assume that the reference to sowing discord in the Hungarian Jewish community has something to do with the disparity between the cozy relationship between the tiny EMIH and the Hungarian government on the one hand and the often strained relationship between the government and Mazsihisz, which represents mainstream Jewish congregations based on traditional Hungarian Jewish practices, on the other.

July 19, 2017
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exTor
Guest

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No doubt Viktor Orbán feels that Mazsihisz was somewhat uppity in voicing its concerns about the antisemitic ramifications of antiSorosism. Certainly Netanyahu –the Jewish Godfather– didn’t like to be told that he is letting down his flock.

Not much will likely come of Netanyahu’s gettogether with the V4, which always sounds like a World War 2 Nazi Germany weapon. Netanyahu, the World’s outsider, got to hobknob with the EU outsiders. So what. Where’s the leverage? This grouping is just a mutual-commiseration society.

Re Orbán’s oversize hat, perhaps he thought his head was bigger when he ordered it online. Now he can fit into his nickname: Bighead.

MAGYARKOZÓ

Member

What is the deal with the hat? Orbo knew he had to cover his head, but didn’t want to be seen in public wearing a yarmulke?

exTor
Guest

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The way that Orbán is wearing his (seemingly) oversize hat reminds me of rodeo cowboys and their low-sitting cowboy hats, which always struck me as weird, but the reality is that a cowboy hat sitting higher on the head flies off faster when bucking a bronco.

Not all Jews wear yarmulkas (which we used to call ‘Jew beanies’ when I was a kid in Toronto living in a Jewish [Casa Loma West] neighborhood) while attending synagogues. Many wore hats like the one Orbán wore.

MAGYARKOZÓ

exTor
Guest

Funny how things come out when one is not paying attention. Rereading the final paragraph above, the pronoun object ‘it’ logically refers to the earlier noun subject ‘head’, thus producing the attendant meaning: Re Orbán’s oversize hat, perhaps he thought his head was bigger when he ordered [his head] online. Now he can fit into his nickname: Bighead.

Clearly my final paragraph should have been written thus: Re Orbán’s oversize hat, perhaps he thought his head was bigger when he ordered his hat online. Now Orbán can fit into his nickname: Bighead.

MAGYARKOZÓ

Miki
Guest

So many distortions, so many lies.
But keep up the good job boys and girls, this is how you make sure you will never govern Hungary again.

Guest

Does Netanyahu really want the EZU to return to the 19th Century?
He should remember that a side effect of all that Nationalism were not only the regular wars but also a high level of antisemitism -seems these things are always connected.

Of course I know that not all Israelis are like Netanyahu – just as not all US citizens are like Trump and Pence etc …
But in addition the return of fundamentalism in different religions really gives me the creeps!

PS:
However knowing my fellow Germans and based on what is happening in France and even Britain right now I believe that the majority of Europeans will not play those ugly games – it’s just sad in a way that the EU will move on without those stupid little Balkan countries aka V4.
I know they consider themselves part of Central Europe but we have a hearty laugh at that in Germany and Austria etc!

And it may even happen, that the original Balkan countries like Romania and Croatia might overtake the V4 loonies!

womack
Guest
The current right-wing Israeli discourse doesn’t care about the diaspora especially not the Central-European (non-Russian, non-Sefardic) diaspora. Netanyhu and his supporters know that neolog or secular Ashkenazis are really European and Israel is by now not European in any sense and especially the current Israeli government wants to make it as sui generis as possible. The current conception of Europe (of which the EU is just one manifestation) is an Englightment/human-rights discourse-based, progressive project and the current Israeli government, let’s face it, is the antithesis of that. Moreover this secular “European”ness has traditionally been represented in Israel by the political enemies of Likud. Labour dominated Israeli politics for decades, but as the Israeli society gradually but fundamentally changed (and moved markedly to the right) after 1990, it became mostly irrelevant. In any case Netanyahu sees Labour, his arch-adversary, in the more secular, thoroughly European CEE Jewish diaspora – which is actually quite small, since even the current German Jews come from Russia (who are more religious, socially conservative and hawkish). But the American diaspora (whose ancestors are the CEE Jews just like those of the people who made up Labour’s leadership for decades) is generally ignored by the the Israeli… Read more »
wrfree
Guest

Re: ‘In short by now for Israel it’s not ethnicity, shared religion or shared traditions what is important but shared ideology (religion in a wider and stricter sense) with the current government’

Showing up as well here in the US where the Israeli Rabbinate has rejected the authority of some rabbis who certify the Jewishness of those who wish to marry in Israel. The rabbis affected note it has come out of the blue. It appears Benjamin has let this go on to satisfy the ultra-Orthodox side. So another ‘rift’ as reported between Jewish communities around the world and a outwardly tough Israel. The latter indeed gave much in common with VO now. Both have a sort of a narrowed laser vision and have a hard line when ‘getting along’.

The Pole
Guest

We in Poland totally don’t care about Visegrád 4 meeting when everyday tens of thousands people protest on the streets against unconstitutional law already approved by Parliament and waiting President Andrzej Duda’s signature that will allow the parliament to pick the new members of the National Council of the Judiciary (KRS), a body responsible for nominating judges. Other amendment of the Law on the Court System gave power to minister of justice to appoint the presidents of the appellate and district courts without any consultations. A new bill, unveiled late last week, would force the resignations of all current members of the Supreme Court, several of whom have been feuding with the government, replacing them with judges selected by the ruling party’s Minister of Justice.

Please follow the situation in Poland on this site:

http://www.tvn24.pl/tvn24-news-in-english,157,m

wrfree
Guest

Re: the protests

After a piece on the Magyar far- right I noticed in my ‘small’ daily paper columns on the Polish situation. Two in a row on Eastern Europe within a week. Perhaps it isn’t the backwater of Europe no longer. ‘Fake news’ it aint as the ‘great one’ here continually blabs on with his obsession. And he’s getting paid too much to keep on tweeting.

Guest

Not too much OT re “fake news” from breitbart etc.

I just found two interesting articles describing this:

https://www.mediamatters.org/blog/2017/03/22/breitbart-tagging-articles-bigoted-alt-right-meme-attacks-swedish-multiculturalism/215775

http://www.salon.com/2017/06/02/sweden-is-the-gateway-to-the-alt-right-anti-immigrant-agenda-in-europe_partner/
Sweden of course is only one example:
Often the flow of misinformation looks something like this: A Swedish or British tabloid reports on a study or crime with a sensational headline and few details or context; “alt-right” or far-right outlets cite the original source but add new details to further sensationalize the story; these outlets promote each other to amplify the story; and eventually the story makes its way to a more mainstream news outlet.

one of the segments was later cited by President Trump as the impetus for his fact-free suggestion that something “was happening last night” in Sweden

Pole
Guest

Update: just now polish parliamental chamber Sejm approved the law to dismiss all Supreme Court judges.

Pole
Guest

The Pole

We in Poland totally don’t care about Visegrád 4 meeting when everyday tens of thousands people protest on the streets against unconstitutional law already approved by Parliament and waiting President Andrzej Duda’s signature that will allow the parliament to pick the new members of the National Council of the Judiciary (KRS), a body responsible for nominating judges. Other amendment of the Law on the Court System gave power to minister of justice to appoint the presidents of the appellate and district courts without any consultations. A new bill, unveiled late last week, would force the resignations of all current members of the Supreme Court, several of whom have been feuding with the government, replacing them with judges selected by the ruling party’s Minister of Justice.

Please follow the situation in Poland on this site:

http://www.tvn24.pl/tvn24-news-in-english,157,m

Ferenc
Guest

Re: CZECH
The first picture in the post, in which the Czech PM seems to be the odd-one-out, made me start wondering about the political situation in Czech. Well there could be something bad on it’s way there (also)!
In 2017 October will be elections, the current PM Sobotka and his party (social-democrats) seem to be losing support and a former ally of them (center populist party ANO lead by Babiš) is currently leading the polls and in an upward trend. Babiš is an ex- minister of finances, sacked from the government for allegations that he avoided paying taxes, but still the most popular politician.
Babiš is a businessman, who in 2012 founded his ANO party as a protest movement against established politics, and has recently taken over various media outlets (sounds familiar? Yes yes!!).
Don’t know if there are any connections between Babiš/ANO and Fidesz, but wouldn’t be surprised…

Ferenc
Guest

Connections Fidesz – Czech…
Meszaros (=Orban) in collaboration with EPH (Czech) in buying Mátra power plant
http://budapestbeacon.com/featured-articles/meszaros-may-team-eph-buy-matra-power-plant/48908
EPH is 94% owned by Daniel Křetínský.
http://www.epholding.cz/en/shareholder-structure/
Note: Křetínský since 2014 also invloved in media as one of the owners of Czech media house Czech News Center (previously known as Ringier Axel Springer CZ a.s.) [in Hungary: remember Mediaworks?]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Czech_News_Center

Main question: are there any connections between Křetínský/EPH and Babiš/ANO??
If answer is YES (is ANO in Czech…), then the Orban – Fidesz – ANO – Babiš is clear!!

Pole
Guest

I have very limited knowledge about Czech politics but from that what I read Babis is pro-Russian politician.

Ferenc
Guest

And guess what, now OV starts to speak (in Tusnádfürdő/Tușnad) about the strengthening of the V4 as the most important. This can mean a lot of things, but my suspicion is that in OV’s mind this means getting the whole of V4 more in line with ‘Hungary’ aka.OV&Fidesz policies. In that case, the most obvious action is to get more OV-friendly people at the wheel in Czech, as this is currently the V4’s odd-one-out [kakukktojás].
https://444.hu/2017/07/22/orban-viktor-azt-igerte-hogy-az-eros-magyarorszagrol-beszel-ma

At that event in Tusnádfürdő/Tușnad OV was showing off with yet another something on his headcomment image
“The Emperor’s New Hat”,
seems time for a new Hungarian version an old tale!

Guest

Maybe O is preparing for leaving the EU – he can’t be that stupid to believe that the civilised EU countries will follow him, or can he?

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