“We will try to increase the awareness in Europe about the special situation, and the specially security needs, of Israel.”
Israel’s neighbors are not like Austria’s – Liechtenstein and Switzerland – and for that reason Vienna will try to raise the awareness of Israel’s security concerns inside the European Union, visiting Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Monday after meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
When Netanyahu joked that Austria and Israel should trade neighbors for a couple of weeks, Kurz – whose country will assume the rotating presidency of the EU next month – replied, “I’m not sure about that.”
Saying that Austria will support Israel’s security needs, and acknowledging that it lives in a “tough neighborhood,” Kurz said, “We will try to increase the awareness in Europe about the special situation, and the specially security needs, of Israel.”
Kurz, who said that Israeli-Austrian ties today are excellent, and that the tourism and trade levels between the two countries have never been better, remarked that Austria “has a special responsibility to Israel and the Jewish people.”
Kurz, who is in a coalition government with the far-right Freedom Party which has a history of antisemitism and with whom Israel refuses to engage, said, “I can assure you that Austria will fight with determination against antisemitism in Europe,” both the old and new forms of antisemitism.
“We know that our responsibility does not end at our borders,” he said.
Netanyahu characterized as “very important” Kurz’s comment that Europe needed to take Israel’s security concerns very seriously. “This is not always the case,” he said.
Netanyahu greeted Kurz as a “true friend” of Israel and the Jewish people, and said that his visit on Sunday to the Western Wall – a rare step for European leaders – is proof of that. The prime minister said he now hopes other European leaders will follow in Kurz’s footsteps.