Why Benjamin Netanyahu Loves the European Far-Right

Recent spats aside, Israel’s right-wing government sees the illiberal nationalist leaders of Poland and Hungary as natural allies. They share a hostility toward human rights, Enlightenment values, and the European Union.

By Zeev Sternhell
Feb 24, 2019

The meeting of the so-called Visegrad states in Israel that had been scheduled for Feb. 19 was the natural culmination of the efforts of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to integrate his country into the nationalist, racist, and anti-Semitic Eastern European bloc that is the enemy of the liberal West. Then, last week, Netanyahu declared that “Poles cooperated with the Nazis” while his acting foreign minister, Israel Katz, asserted that Poles “suckle anti-Semitism with their mother’s milk,” leading to fury in Warsaw. Katz’s remarks—quoting the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, a Jew who grew up in Poland like his predecessors David Ben-Gurion and Menachem Begin—may have been nasty, but many Polish Jews in Israel would agree with them.

But the fact that Poland’s governing Law and Justice party pulled out of the scheduled meeting in order to protect its credibility with its rabidly nationalist and anti-Semitic base and that the event has become a series of bilateral meetings instead of a summit has not changed its basic purpose.

It is a great mistake to think that Netanyahu’s courtship of the European far-right is only a matter of realpolitik and a defense of political interests as Gol Kalev argued in a recent Foreign Policy piece. Nothing could be further from the truth, just as there is nothing more ridiculous than turning to Zionism’s founder, Theodor Herzl, to justify the present Israeli support of the nationalist, racist Eastern European right.

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