An attempt by the European Union to issue a joint statement condemning the U.S. was blocked by the threat of a Hungarian veto. The statement was intended to counter an announcement by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday re-establishing the policy that the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria are not in contravention of international law.
Just a few hours later, Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, issued a statement reiterating the EU’s position.
“The European Union’s position on Israeli settlement policy in the occupied Palestinian territory is clear and remains unchanged: all settlement activity is illegal under international law and it erodes the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for a lasting peace, as reaffirmed by UN Security Council Resolution 2334.”
“The EU calls on Israel to end all settlement activity, in line with its obligations as an occupying power. The EU will continue to support a resumption of a meaningful process towards a negotiated two-state solution, the only realistic and viable way to fulfill the legitimate aspirations of both parties.”
An anonymous source told the Times of Israel that Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó instructed his diplomats to oppose any EU statement on the legality of settlements. The Hungarian FM has made it clear that his country would veto any future statements.
Several European nations, including members of the EU, have released statements reaffirming their opinions that it is illegal for Jews to live in Judea and Samaria.
Hungary’s recent stand against the condemnation of U.S. support of Israel echoes their actions in December 2017 when they joined the Czech Republic in opposing a move by the EU to condemn the U.S. for recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The Hungarian stance is important as joint statements issued in the name of the 28 EU member states require a unanimous agreement by all member states.
In March, Hungary became the first EU member state to open a diplomatic mission in the Israeli capital, counter to the bloc’s position that such missions preempt progress toward a Mideast peace agreement.
The political moves in which Hungary has the back of the Trump administration may contain personal and religious elements. When Viktor Orban, the Hungarian Prime Minister, visited the White House in May, Trump praised him.
“You have been great with respect to Christian communities,” he told Orban. “You have really put a block up, and we appreciate that very much.”
Like Trump, Hungary has been much criticized for refusing to allow illegal immigrants from crossing their borders.
It is precisely this policy that has become a battleground pitting the Hungarian prime minister against Hungarian-born Jewish billionaire George Soros, who is blocked from entering Hungary. Orban claims Soros has tried to implement a secret plot to flood Hungary with migrants and destroy their nation. An article in Politico published in 2018 claimed that an Israeli private intelligence firm called Black Cube acquired recordings used by Orban to discredit Hungarian NGOs and individuals funded by Soros. According to Orban, Soros was working to flood his country with illegal immigrants from Arab countries in an attempt to destabilize his government.
“The billionaire financier commands a quasi-mercenary force of at least 2,000 people, tasked with achieving three goals: bringing down Prime Minister Orban’s government, dismantling the border fence, and promoting immigration to Hungary,” a representative of Orban claimed.
It is no secret that Soros founded the Open Society Foundations (OSF) with a $20 billion endowment. OSF has been criticized for enabling illegal immigration into several countries. NGO Monitor reported that OSF “contributes significantly to anti-Israel campaigns.”
In 2017, the Israeli ambassador to Hungary issued a statement criticizing a billboard campaign by Orban blaming Soros for interfering in the Hungarian election. The Israeli Foreign Ministry revised that statement, justifying Orban’s criticism of Soros.
“In no way was the statement (by the ambassador) meant to delegitimize criticism of George Soros, who continuously undermines Israel’s democratically elected governments,” read a statement by foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon. He noted the work of Soros funded organizations “that defame the Jewish state and seek to deny it the right to defend itself”.