Deputy FM Massalha Commenting in the Knesset on the Situation in Austria

(Communicated by Foreign Ministry Spokesman)
February 2, 2000

The following are the statements made by Deputy Foreign Minister of Israel Mr. Nawaf Massalha in the Knesset today (2/2/2000) in answer to several Calls to Order on the possible entry of Joerg Haider’s party into the government coalition in Austria:

"The Government of Israel announces that in the event that Haider’s party will enter the government coalition in Austria, whether Joerg Haider will serve as a government minister or not, Israel will immediately recall its Ambassador to Vienna, Mr. Nathan Meron, for an unlimited period in the course of which we will engage in a reassessment of the entire range of our bilateral relations with Austria.

"We view positively the strong and unequivocal statement of the EU Presidency in the name of the fourteen member states which states that the EU will undertake political steps as follows: cessation of bilateral contacts with Austria, non-support of Austrian candidatures in international organizations and other measures.

"We made our position clear to Austria immediately after the election results were known, both publicly and in meetings held by the Prime Minister with the Austrian Chancellor and by Foreign Minister David Levy with the Austrian Foreign Minister Schuessel.

"Israel is the only country which immediately opposed the possibility of Haider joining the coalition. Despite certain criticism voiced at the time following the determined statement by the Foreign Minister, we did not change our position, and our position will not change.

"Israel will not agree to international legitimization of an extreme party, such as the ‘Freedom Party’, whatever the circumstances may be. While we do not desire to intervene in the internal affairs of Austria, the lessons of the past require us to denounce the trends represented by Haider’s party.

"It is saddening that alongside the convening of important conferences, such as the Stockholm conference last week on the teaching the lessons of the Holocaust, in Austria a political party which promotes the ideologies of non-tolerance and hatred of foreigners is on the verge of entering the government."

In addition, the Deputy Foreign Minister spoke on these issues during his recent visit to Scandinavia where the topic is at the top of the public agenda. The Deputy Minister stated his appreciation to the positions conveyed to him in Norway and Denmark.