Hungarian FM to Post: Genocide claim at ICJ is nonsense, we back Israel


Warning that the Gaza and Ukrainian conflicts could spark a third world war, and arguing that genocide charges against the Jewish state are “nonsense,” Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto is one of Israel’s stalwart friends on the European continent.

The tall politician, who is not afraid to hold controversial opinions and buck the tide of international sentiments, is part of a small number of politicians who fully back Israel in Europe and at the United Nations, including its International Court of Justice at The Hague.

“We stand by Israel, no question,” Szijjarto said as he sat down for an interview with The Jerusalem Post during his solidarity visit to Israel last week.

Much like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he has linked the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza with the global battle against terrorism.

As he sat in an armchair in Jerusalem flanked by a flag of Israel and that of his own country, he explained that he is puzzled by the international amnesia regarding how the war began.

EU FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF Josep Borrell arrives to attend an EU-Israel Association Council in Brussels in 2022. ‘We really want to see Europe standing up and recognizing the right of Israel to protect itself,’ Szijjarto says. (credit: YVES HERMAN/REUTERS)

“Unfortunately, my experience is that when the issue of the conflict here is being discussed in the international political arena, somehow [people have] forgotten how it started,” Szijjarto said.

It’s true that nearly four months have passed since the Gaza war started, which “is a long period of time, but it should not be long enough to make all of us forget” the Hamas massacre on October 7, he said. During the terrorist infiltration into southern Israel over 1,200 civilians were killed and another 253 seized as hostages, including dual Israeli-Hungarian citizens.


The Palestinian Authority and its supporters have accused Israel of genocide in light of the high fatality count, which Hamas says is now close to 26,000. Israel has said that over 9,000 of those killed were combatants.

The PA and its supporters often speak of the Gaza war without mentioning October 7 or the threat Hamas poses to Israel, including the rockets that Palestinians have launched against the Jewish state from the enclave for over two decades.

Global war against terror

For Hungary, the IDF military campaign against Hamas is “an anti-terror operation,” Szijjarto said.

What is at stake here is the prevention of “any such kind of heinous terror attacks anywhere in the world, anytime.”

“If this anti-terror operation is successful, it will help the world to be safe from such terror attacks in the future. The success of the anti-terror operation is not only an Israel interest but a global interest,” he said.

“So therefore, we support Israel” and want it to “complete the anti-terror operation successfully, to make it impossible that such an attack takes place anytime anywhere in the world in the future,” he stated.

Hungary, therefore, is among those countries that have objected to South Africa’s petition to the International Court of Justice at The Hague, accusing Israel of genocide. It has asked to be considered a party to the case, so that it can speak up on Israel’s behalf during the main hearing, which has yet to take place.

Szijjarto said that a genocide charge is “nonsense” and that Hungary stands with Israel against any “unbalanced and unfair” international action, and “we will continue to do so. We will continue to speak up, and in order so that the world will come to know what has happened here,” he said.

The events of October 7 were both a “geopolitical situation” and a “human tragedy,” he said.

Hungary has been among those countries directly impacted by the attack. Dual Israeli-Hungarian citizen Ilan Weiss, 56, who was part of Kibbutz Be’eri’s security team, was killed responding to the October 7 attack. Four of Hungary’s dual citizens were among those taken captive that morning. Three were released and one, Omri Miran, 46, a father of two, is still held in Gaza.

In an effort to help secure the release of the hostages, given that Hamas is an Iranian proxy group, Szijjarto has spoken with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian once since October 7, in an effort “to test where they stand and what kind of chances we do have to get them engaged into a solution.”

Szijjarto has also conversed with Qatar, which, along with Egypt and with US support, is leading mediation efforts to secure a deal for the release of the remaining 136 hostages still held in Gaza.

“I think it is not only a political but a moral obligation of the entire international community to make sure that we put enough pressure on Hamas to release all the hostages, unconditionally and immediately,” Szijjarto said. Among the meetings he held while in Israel was one with members of Miran’s family.

The location of Szijjarto’s conversation with the Post in Hungary’s trade office, opened in 2019, was itself a sign of its tight ties to the Jewish state. Hungary was the first European Union country to open an official diplomatic representation in Jerusalem.

Such a step, which signifies recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, is viewed as diplomatically controversial, given that much of the international community refuses to grant such recognition in advance of a two-state resolution to the conflict. Most embassies are, therefore, located in the Tel Aviv area.

Hungary has pledged in the past to move its embassy, a move that would put it at odds with EU policy on this issue, but it has yet to do so. Such a move, Szijjarto said, is not on the agenda at this time, and he did not provide a timetable for when it would be.

Hungary has also been among those in the EU that have pushed to separate the bloc’s frustration with Israel over the Palestinian conflict from its relationship with the Jewish state. The EU is Israel’s largest trading partner, but it is often diplomatically at odds with the Jewish state over issues such as West Bank settlement contraction, annexation, and, now, the Gaza war.

Szijjarto said that the EU-Israel relationship has always been “colorful,” with many of the bloc’s countries acting in a “biased and unbalanced” way toward Israel. He pointed to the bloc’s decade-long failure to convene the EU-Israel Association Council – which met in 2012 and then again only in 2022, when opposition leader Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) was prime minister – as an example of that attitude.

For years Hungary was among a small number of countries that argued that this meeting should take place, he said, explaining that the tension now is not new.

“We really want to see Europe standing up and recognizing the right of Israel to protect itself,” he said.

Hungary opposed EU foreign policy chief 

Hungary is among those countries that oppose EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell’s push to impose a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a move that Borrell spoke of Monday at the meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels. Hungary’s pro-Israel stance is particularly important at the EU, where policy on Israel requires the support of all of its 27 member states.

Szijjarto told the Post that “it would be great if Europe could contribute to making peace in the region, in case the stakeholders here find it necessary.” We at the EU “cannot impose ourselves on you,” he said.

“The body language of Europe should be to offer our service and let’s see [if] it will be reciprocated,” he said.

Either way, EU-Israel ties should not be contingent on the two-state solution, particularly since Israel is only one of the partners to the conflict, and it cannot resolve it on its own, he explained.

“I think it should not be a precondition because it does not only depend on Israel. So if it does not only depend on Israel, then why would we make it as a precondition for an improved EU Israel relationship?”

He noted that this position does not reflect mainstream political thinking within the EU toward Israel.

“If you tie things to each other, which have not much to do with each other, then you slow down processes,” he stated.

Hungary is also at odds with the bloc when it comes to the Russian-Ukrainian war, now in its second year.

“Europe has made tremendous mistakes” with its handling of that conflict, particularly by globalizing rather than isolating it, he said.

Instead of making steps toward peace, the steps made by the EU “have the danger of escalating the conflict,” Szijjarto said.

Hungary is among the few countries in Europe that have not delivered weapons to Ukraine. It has maintained a relationship with Russia and has called for a ceasefire.

“The longer the war takes, the more people will die,” Szijjarto said.

“The No. 1 duty here is to save the lives of the people [there] and to save the country, Ukraine, from a total collapse,” he said.

There should be a ceasefire, peace talks, and then a peace deal, in that sequence, he said.

With respect to the Gaza war, Hungary holds precisely the opposite approach, but for the same reasons, Szijjarto said.

The focus in both cases is on saving lives, he said.

In Gaza, “you kill the terrorists, in order to avoid them killing peaceful people in the future,” he said.

In both cases, Hungary doesn’t want to see the conflicts escalate, but to avoid that in Gaza, “you to have to win over Hamas.”

“In Ukraine you stop the war immediately. That is how you protect the lives of the people,” he said.

“My understanding is that if either of these two conflicts goes beyond the border of another country, then it will not stop there; it will trigger the involvement of others,” he said.

That situation “can very easily cause a third world war,” Szijjarto said.

In the Middle East, he would like to see the region refocus on a normalization track, without any connection to Palestinian statehood.

Szijjarto explained that he is a strong proponent of the 2020 Abraham Accords, so much so that he was the only foreign minister, aside from the signatories to the deal, who attended its formal signing ceremony in Washington in September of that year.

“We have seen multiple attempts throughout the decades to create peace and normal living circumstances in the region, and all those failed,” he said.

This agreement, under which four Arab countries agreed to normalize ties with Israel, provides the first plan “for long-term peace, stability, and tranquility in the region.”

The region has to return to the Abraham Accords as soon as possible, he stressed.

He noted that he had discussed with Foreign Minister Israel Katz the plan for a regional train system that would link Israel with the Gulf.

It was a proposal first put forward by Katz, which is now also part of a plan to turn Israel into a regional transit hub unveiled by US President Joe Biden last year.

That rail plan “should be constructed in order to make this region more interconnected and more central to global trade,” he said.

Among the regional projects that have interested Hungary has been the EastMed pipeline by which Israel would export natural gas to Europe.

“We are very much interested in [improving] the energy cooperation with Israel,” even though Hungary imports gas and oil from Russia, he said.

When it comes to energy, “you always have to look for diversification. The more diversified the energy, the safer you are,” he said. He noted that he has been interested in energy cooperation with Israel since 2012, and during this visit he spoke about the issue with Energy Minister Eli Cohen.

These types of projects are precisely why Szijjarto said he is such a strong advocate of the Abraham Accords, because they offer practical solutions that improves the lives of residents of the region.

Such projects are not “about theories, ideologies, politics,” but about ways to improve the standard of living, he said. When that happens, the level of “hatred drops,” he said.

“There is nothing that normal people want more than peace. I don’t think October 7 has changed anything in this regard,” he said. 

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