How Hitler's Homeland Became Israel's Best Friend

For many in Israel, it was a surprise that Austria stood by Tel Aviv, according to Politico

by Sededin Dedovic
How Hitler's Homeland Became Israel's Best Friend
© Michael Gruber / Getty Images

When the United Nations convened on October 27 to deliberate on a resolution advocating a cease-fire in Gaza, Israel found itself facing an unexpected challenge: Austria, traditionally perceived as having tumultuous relations with the Jewish state, surprisingly aligned itself with Tel Aviv's position.

Politiko notes that this shift in Austria's stance marked a departure from its historical associations with figures like Adolf Hitler and the shadow of the extreme right-wing Freedom Party, founded by SS veterans in the 1950s.

The Brussels portal highlights the transformation in the Israel-Austria relationship, emphasizing Austria's recent acknowledgment of its World War II history as a pivotal factor. This evolution, described as a "dramatic, if little-noticed, transformation," is attributed to a combination of political calculations and economic considerations.

Vienna's decision to stand against the resolution, despite its eventual defeat with 120 countries in favor and only 14, including the US, against, underscores the depth of this nuanced diplomatic shift. Former Israeli ambassador to the UN, David Roet, now serving as an envoy to Vienna, commended Austria's unexpected support, acknowledging the symbolic significance of the vote.

The Brussels portal suggests that Austria, alongside Hungary and the Czech Republic, is emerging as the hub of a pro-Israel central European bloc, solidifying strategic and remarkably close relations with Israel that Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg insists cannot be reversed.

The text sheds light on Austria's cautious diplomatic trajectory, tracing back to Chancellor Sebastian Kurz's efforts to distance the nation from its past associations with anti-Semitic sentiments. In 2017, when forming a government with the Freedom Party, known for its anti-Semitic history, Kurz aimed to reassure both Israel and the international community that Austria was committed to a different path.

Understanding the consequences of a similar coalition in 2000 that led to international isolation, Kurz, during his term as foreign minister, visited Jerusalem in 2018, pledging to combat anti-Semitism in Europe. The Brussels portal highlights the success of Kurz's tactics, emphasizing the subsequent positive remarks from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who referred to Kurz as "a true friend of Israel and the Jewish people." Despite Israel's initial reluctance to engage with ministers from the Freedom Party, closer cooperation between Kurz and his center-right allies with Israel ensued.

This rapprochement saw not only improved diplomatic relations but also a surge in economic ties, with Austrian exports to Israel spiking by 50 percent between 2018 and 2022, fueled by increased Israeli tourism in Austria.