Jerusalem (CNN)As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bumps heads with Western European leaders over their support for their Iran nuclear deal and their ubiquitous criticism of Israeli settlements, he has found a different set of European allies.
Why Netanyahu is cozying up to Europe's renegades
Right-wing governments such as Hungary and Poland, openly critical of European Union policies despite being members, have grown closer to Israel even as some face accusations of anti-Semitism. And Netanyahu is pushing that trend forward.
In Israel on a three-day visit, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is the latest of these countries' leaders to visit the country. Orban was greeted warmly by Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders, and is scheduled to visit the Western Wall on Friday morning before returning home.
Now in his fourth term, the Hungarian leader has faced accusations of anti-Semitism, primarily for his attacks on Hungarian Jewish Holocaust survivor George Soros. Orban has also established a platform that is forcefully anti-immigrant. The Hungarian leader has cracked down on nongovernmental organizations, opposition parties and an independent media, cementing his own party's power with a sweeping victory in April's elections.
Opposition Knesset member Yair Lapid slammed Orban's visit as a "disgrace," writing on Twitter that Netanyahu is honoring a man who"praised the anti-Semitic leader who collaborated with the Nazis in the annihilation of Hungarian Jewry." Last year, Orban paid tribute to Miklos Horthy, Hungary's leader during World War 2 who enacted anti-Jewish laws and was an ally of Nazi Germany.
None of that seems to matter for Netanyahu, who has cozied up to Europe's renegade leaders, finding common ground in shared interests. Netanyahu has brought Israel closer to the conservative, populist leaders pushing anti-immigrant messages in Europe, mirroring Netanyahu's ties to the administration of President Donald Trump.
Hungary is perhaps the clearest example of the emerging partnerships. Netanyahu and Orban have both taken hardline stances on immigration. Netanyahu has worked to remove thousands of African migrants from Israel, while Orban has likened immigration to a "flu epidemic." Hungary has even built a fence along its southern border with Serbia and Croatia to stop migration, comparable to Israel's fence along the Egypt border, which has stopped migration from across Sinai.
And both leaders have demonized Hungarian-born billionaire George Soros, a Jewish philanthropist who donates to many liberal causes and organizations through his Open Society Foundations. Orban's campaign against Soros included a campaign slogan of "Let's not allow Soros to have the last laugh!" while the country's foreign minister labeled Soros a "national security risk."
Orban is not the only right-wing European politician embraced by Netanyahu in recent months. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz made his first official visit to Israel in June. His coalition includes the far-right Freedom Party, which was founded by former Nazis in the 1950s. Israel has boycotted the party, but not Kurz's government. Netanyahu called Kurz "a true friend of Israel" during his visit, thanking him for opposing anti-Semitism in Austria.