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Palestine Report II. – Interview with Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki

In our second installment of our Palestine report we present the content of our discussions with Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki conducted at the Foreign Ministry office in Ramallah, September 4, 2022.

Hungary Today had asked the minister about the reasons behind a tangible renewed interest in the relationship between Palestine and Hungary from the part of the Palestinian leadership. What makes the Palestinian Authority (PA) think that talking to Hungarian citizens or politicians through articles in the Hungarian media might bring about a positive change for Palestine?

In his reply Mr. Riyad al-Maliki said that “we have tried very hard to maintain a very good relationship between Hungary and Palestine. We have extended our hand for friendship. I personally have a very good relationship with Foreign Minister (Péter Szijjártó), and I did visit Hungary twice, as he also visited here.”

The minister explained that on a personal level the relationship is “really good” but when it comes to Israel-Palestine, the Hungarian foreign policy, or the Hungarian way of shaping EU policy, there is a “problem”. In his view, Hungary has openly shown a total pro-Israeli stance that disregards the rights of Palestinians. What the PA mostly objects to though is that Hungary has, according to Mr. Maliki, prevented consensus within the EU about Israel-Palestine for the last couple of years, because they have objected to resolutions or statements that could point at Israel negatively for its policies against the Palestinians.

In the Foreign Minister’s view, criticizing Israel or issuing a statement against Israel within the EU is being blocked by the Hungarian government through not allowing full consensus. In his words, in relation to Palestine, Hungary is the one that carries the Israeli flag. When it comes to statements regarding Israeli atrocities, crimes, then Hungary comes to the defense of Israel to prevent any statement against it. When it comes to moving the embassies or opening diplomatic missions in Jerusalem, Hungary is the one to take the lead and shows the initiative in violation of international law, especially resolution 478 of 1980 of the Security Council by opening an office in Jerusalem with diplomatic representation, in total violation of international law, and in violation of the European Union, he added. The minister was most likely referring here to the opening of the Foreign Trade office opened by Hungary in West Jerusalem in 2019.

In Mr. Maliki’s view, this is done with the aim “to please the Israelis, but it annoys the Palestinians” and puts the relationship between Hungary and Palestine into a situation of confrontation rather than cooperation and collaboration.

In the minister’s view, the answer to this lies with the Hungarian Foreign Minister, he is the only one who could explain the reasons for why Hungary has always been covering for Israel within the EU. Mr. Maliki also explained that it was Hungarian foreign policy that has lead the PA at one point to recall their ambassador to Budapest for consultation. Yet in Mr. Maliki’s view, even this step has not been reflected on by the Hungarian side who, in his view, intend to continue with their pro-Israel policy.

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The Palestinian Foreign Minister has opined that there is an element of indifference on the part of the Hungarian government when it comes to making an effort in order to maintain a good working relationship between Palestine and Hungary, but the PA continues to make efforts to find ways to recuperate the good relationship that existed before, and to find a way to lead Hungarian foreign policy in a more balanced direction. “They should listen to international reports when it comes to criticizing Israel, that they should see with both eyes, not only with one as it is happening”, said Mr. Maliki.

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Amal Jadou (L) with Riyad al-Maliki (R) Photo: Hungary Today

The Palestinian minister has also explained that he is aware of “what Hungary says about the 700-800.000 Hungarian Jews who migrated to Israel who have a certain influence, or the 700 Israeli companies that work in Hungary.” He said that these points have come up in bilateral discussions but in his view “principles have to define your policy, not only your interests. This is really the issue”.

Mr. Maliki has expressed his hope that reports published in Hungarian media should reflect the true conditions under which Palestinians live but also their aspirations as a people. At the same time, he added, the Palestinians would very much like to maintain a good and friendly working relationship with Hungary and they expect Hungary to put its good relationship with Israel and with Palestine to good use in order to be a catalyst for bringing the two sides closer to each other. The Foreign Minister has concluded by saying that he presently does not know what is the right mechanism or the right approach to modify Hungary’s stance and to make Hungary see the situation “with both eyes”, as he put is.

We have asked the Hungarian Foreign Ministry for comment, to date we have not received an answer.

Featured Photo: Hungary Today

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