Viktor Orbán, the Prime Minister of Hungary, has admitted his country’s “sin” in its co-operation with the Nazis during the Second World War.
Mr Orbán, who also vowed to protect Hungary’s Jewish community, made his comments during a visit by Benjamin Netanyahu, the first by an Israeli prime minister since the fall of Communism.
“It is the duty of every Hungarian government to defend its citizens whatever their heritage. During World War Two, Hungary did not honour this moral and political obligation,” said Mr Orbán.
“That is a crime, because we chose collaboration with the Nazis over the defence of the Jewish community. That can never happen again. The Hungarian government will defend all of its citizens in the future.”
Mr Netanyahu praised Hungary, citing comments made on Monday by French President Emmanuel Macron.
"Macron said there is a new antisemitism that is expressed in anti-Zionism, that is delegitimising the one and only Jewish state," Mr Netanyahu said.
"In many ways, Hungary is at the forefront of the states that are opposed to this anti-Jewish policy and I welcome it and I express the appreciation of my government and the people, many people in Israel, for this."
However, both Mr Orban and Mr Netanyahu have been the target of criticism from Jews after Mr Orbán’s party, Fidesz, ran a campaign attacking Jewish financier George Soros, depicting him as a political puppet master.
The campaign was seen by many as antisemitic, and condemned as such by the Israeli ambassador to Hungary. However, the Israeli Foreign Ministry subsequently issued a clarification, stating that the ambassador’s remarks were not intended to “invalidate criticism of George Soros, who continuously undermines Israel’s democratically elected governments by funding organisations that defame the Jewish state and seek to deny it the right to defend itself”.
Mr Orbán was also criticised for praising Miklos Horthy, Hungary’s wartime leader who collaborated with the Nazis, as an “exceptional statesman”.
Yair Lapid, the leader of Israel’s Yesh Atid political party, had called on Mr Netanyahu to cancel his trip to Hungary.
“We must be clear: Hungary had a significant role in the Nazi extermination machine and was actively involved in the murder of Jews, in the murder of my family. That only heightens the severity of praising Miklos Horthy,” Mr Lapid said.
“The state of Israel is a strong and sovereign country and we must fight the increasing expressions of antisemitism in Europe, which come from both the left and the right.
“When a prime minister in Europe says that an antisemite was ‘an exceptional statesman,’ we cannot be silent. That it is our moral responsibility to the millions who were murdered in the Holocaust.”