Newspaper says Hungary to move Israel embassy to Jerusalem, Budapest says no decision yet
JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Hungarian President Katalin Novak said on Friday that no decision had yet been made on whether Budapest would move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem next month despite an Israeli newspaper report that it would do so next month.
The Times of Israel said on Friday that the move would take place in an act of support by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban for Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu.
It would make Hungary the first European Union country to open an embassy in Jerusalem, which Israel claims as its capital but which is not recognized as such by most countries and whose status under international law is disputed pending a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“I also read news in the press,” Novak said during a news conference while visiting Prague. “In Hungary, a decision so far has not been made on moving our embassy in Israel.”
Hungarian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mate Paczolay also did not confirm the report but said the ministry would provide updates on any changes to the embassy in all cases.
“We have already moved the commercial department of our Israeli Embassy to Jerusalem years ago,” he said.
An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman declined to comment.
Netanyahu, who returned to power in November, has enjoyed strong support over the years from Hungary’s Orban, an important ally who has been ready to block EU statements or actions critical of Israel in the past.
Orban congratulated him after his election, saying: “In difficult times, strong leaders are needed.”
The two have also found common cause on the issue of Hungarian-born George Soros and his support for non-governmental organizations that have criticized their governments’ policies.
The Israeli parliament passed a law in 1980 declaring the “complete and united” city of Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel. The United Nations regards East Jerusalem as occupied, and the city’s status as disputed until resolved by negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
Under former President Donald Trump, the United States moved its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in 2018 but only a handful of other countries have done the same.
(Reporting by James Mackenzie and Gergely Szakacs in Budapest, additional reporting by Jan Lopatka in Prague; Editing by Frances Kerry)