ISRAEL RENEGOTIATES TIES WITH AUSTRIA OVER PARTY WITH NAZI ROOTS

ISRAEL RENEGOTIATES TIES WITH AUSTRIA OVER PARTY WITH NAZI ROOTS

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Israel and Vienna are holding negotiations on bilateral ties between the countries, including the policy to boycott the Nazi-founded Austrian Freedom Party (FPO), which is part of the governing coalition, Foreign Ministry European Affairs Division head Zvi Tal told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday.
“The results of the election [in Austria] and the FPO’s entry into the government created a challenge,” he said. “The prime minister and foreign minister [Benjamin Netanyahu] instructed his office to avoid all connections with the party.
“Recently, the sides appointed people – the Foreign Ministry director-general and the Austrian chancellor’s spokesman – to manage communications between the countries about all bilateral ties, governmental, parliamentary and on the party level.”
The FPO, a far-right populist party, was founded by a former SS officer in 1956, and its longtime leader Joerg Haider was known to make pro-Nazi remarks. When Haider became a minister in the Austrian government, Israel removed its ambassador from Vienna.
The party’s current leader, Austrian Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, was in a neo-Nazi group but has said that association was when he was “stupid, naïve and young.”
Still, local antisemitism watchdogs have said the FPO was involved in dozens of incidents in recent years, and the party continues to campaign on strongly anti-immigrant lines.
Tal said the Foreign Ministry thinks Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz takes Israel’s concerns about the FPO seriously, citing a recent speech in which he talked about “Austria’s commitment to Israel and its security needs.”
Likud MK Yehudah Glick has met Strache in Vienna, courting controversy at home. His motion to the agenda, along with one from Zionist Union MK Ksenia Svetlova who opposes ties with the FPO, led to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting.

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