“Hey, you underestimate this in Europe. Wake up and do something,” the chancellor recounted Netanyahu telling him.
By Josh Plank, World Israel News
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the one who woke him up and inspired him to take decisive action against the coronavirus.
“Thank God, I can say in this case that Bibi Netanyahu contacted me some time ago and said, ‘Hey, you underestimate this in Europe. Wake up and do something.’ That was a call that shook me up,” Kurz told the German newspaper Bild on Friday.
The 33-year-old leader of Austria said, “It is not an easy situation, but we know what the alternative is, namely a collapse of the health system. And we want that even less. We also know that these measures have no alternative. But one thing is clear: the faster one acts, the better it is.”
After his conversation with Netanyahu, Kurz decided to impose strict measures, closing schools, restaurants, and shops.
On Friday, Kurz extended the new rules until April 13, with Austrians not being allowed to go outside except for necessary work and shopping and to assist the more vulnerable.
Austria shares a border with Italy, which is one of the world’s hardest-hit countries with 4,825 reported deaths, compared to China’s 3,261.
Currently, Austria’s numbers are significantly lower than its neighbor with 3,024 confirmed cases and 8 deaths.
Netanyahu and Kurz have met at least half a dozen times since Kurz became foreign minister of Austria in 2013.
On July 10, 2019, the two leaders met in Jerusalem where they discussed issues like border management, illegal migration, and the Iran nuclear agreement.
Netanyahu warmly welcomed Kurz, saying, “I’m delighted to see you again, Sebastian. You’ve been a tremendous friend of the State of Israel, a champion of fighting anti-Semitism, a great leader for Austria, and it’s good to see you again back in Jerusalem.”
Kurz made a private visit to Israel in June 2018, which included a stop at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City.
On November 21 of that year, he hosted a conference against anti-Semitism in Vienna.
“Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are getting blurred, but they are two sides of the same coin,” Kurz told the conference.
He said, “As Austrians, we have to be honest when we look back at our past as Austria was not only a victim, but also a perpetrator, but we must also look ahead to the future. We can’t undo history but we can do justice to our history.”