Diplomacy

Austrian Chancellor Says Israel’s Security is in His Country’s “National Interest”

Israel’s security is in the “national interest” of Austria, the country’s chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Monday in a speech to delegates in Jerusalem, The Times of Israel reported. Sidestepping standard procedure, Kurz had visited the Western Wall on Sunday, the first time in recent memory a leader of a European Union country visited the holy site.

“The security of Israel is not negotiable to us,” Kurz said. “We understand the serious security threats Israel is facing. We therefore fully condemn all acts of violence, inside Israel, at its borders and beyond.”

“As Austrians we will support Israel whenever it is threatened. We will be committed to the historic moral obligation that we have as Austrians towards the security of Israel within our capacity as a neutral country,” Kurz told the crowd at the American Jewish Committee’s Global Forum in Jerusalem.

“It’s our moral obligation that this is part of our Staatsraison, meaning in the national interest of my home country,” he added.

When it comes to war, other countries may lose one or more battles, but can still survive. With Israel, it’s different. Israel is a strong but small country. It cannot afford to lose even one single battle, as this would determine its end,” Kurz went on.

He also vowed that “Austria will keep on reminding its counterparts in this region that Israel is here to stay. And that it is their duty to find a way to accommodate themselves with this fact.”

In a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier on Monday, the Austrian official promised to try to “raise awareness in Europe for the special situation and the special security needs of Israel. Netanyahu praised Kurz’s comments, calling him a “true friend of Israel and of the Jewish people.”

Kurz will not be going to the Palestinian Authority. Austria is slated to take over the rotating European Union Presidency in July.

On Sunday, Kurz visited the Western Wall as part of a tour of the Old City. The E.U. considers the Western Wall “occupied territory.” He also visited Israel’s Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem, and laid a wreath there with survivor Viktor Klein.

Kurz further acknowledged Austria’s guilt for Holocaust crimes and promised his country’s active participation in the fight against modern-day anti-Semitism. “I personally find it unbelievable and unacceptable that even almost a century after the Shoah, anti-Semitism still exists in our world today. Austria bears a special historical responsibility in this context: to support Jewish life in our country and to protect it against all forms of anti-Semitism,” he said.

Kurz failed to address, however, concerns the Jewish community has over his junior coalition partner, the far-right Freedom Party, or FPÖ, for its neo-Nazi past and its current xenophobic policies.

[Photo: Sebastian Kurz / Facebook ]