Netanyahu congratulates Austrian Chancellor-elect; Jewish org warns against joining far-right

Netanyahu congratulated Austrian Chancellor-elect Kurz on his victory, while the World Jewish Congress expressed concern about the ascent of the far-right, which became the country’s second-largest party.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday called Austrian Chancellor-elect Sebastian Kurz and congratulated him on his victory.

In the conversation, Netanyahu noted that Austria “has done much in recent years to preserve the memory of the Holocaust” and to fight against anti-Semitism.

Kurz thanked Netanyahu and said he was “interested in developing the friendship and links with Israel.”

Netanyahu also raised the issue of Iran’s aggression in the region and invited Kurz to visit Israel. According to an Israeli statement, Kurz responded positively and said he would be happy to visit Israel soon.

As foreign minister, Kurz facilitated the P5+1 negotiations with Iran surrounding the nuclear accord. He visited Israel in May 2016 as Austria’s foreign minister and met with Netanyahu.

‘Sad and Distressing’

In the meantime, the World Jewish Congress (WJC) voiced “serious concerns” about the strong showing of the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) in Austria’s parliamentary election, which will likely become the new government’s coalition partner.

WJC President Ronald Lauder, who was the US ambassador to Austria from 1986 to 1987, said it “is sad and distressing that such a platform should receive more than a quarter of the vote and become the country’s second party.”

Lauder noted that the FPO is “still full of xenophobes and racists and is, mildly put, very ambiguous toward Austria’s Nazi past.” He expressed his hope that the far-right party will not end up in government.

Lauder congratulated Kurz on his victory, saying he is “extremely capable” and expressing confidence that the new chancellor will be able to form the government and “to become an outward-looking leader of this wonderful country.” However, Lauder strongly warned against including the Freedom Party in any governing coalition.

“Like the AfD in Germany, the National Front in France, or Jobbik in Hungary, the FPÖ is an extremist party that panders to racists and anti-Semites and whips up feelings against minorities,” Lauder said. “It is led by a man who in his youth expressed clear sympathies for the Nazis. In its present state, the FPÖ is not, and should not be, a party of government.”

The Freedom Party of Austria is led by Heinz-Christian Strache, political heir of former party head Jörg Haider, who was notorious for his anti-Semitism and pro-Nazi opinions. When the party joined the Austrian government in 2000, Israel recalled its ambassador in a diplomatic crisis that continued until 2003.

Strache has visited Israel on the invitation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.

By: World Israel News Staff