19:48 GMT16 February 2020
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    Israel is expected to host a summit for Europe’s emerging Visegrad bloc. Critics are accusing Prime Minister Netanyahu of bowing to Europe’s most right-wing politicians by hosting a key Visegrad meeting.

    Sputnik has discussed the accusations with Eli Hazan, foreign affairs director from the Israeli party Likud.

    Sputnik: Experts are sounding the alarm about Netanyahu's vested interest in the Visegrad bloc. Why is this alarming?

    Eli Hazan: Those experts are alarming almost about every step that Netanyahu is doing, whether he meets with Trump or Putin, or with the Chinese. They are alarming because being very good in a position means that you will get more support. And this is another thing.

    Besides, they don't like the direction; I mean most of the time those experts are coming from the left-wing in Israel and they don't like the direction of those countries that you have mentioned, of the Visegrad bloc, Orban and the Polish government. They don't like them being so rightist. And, especially in Poland, there is a trouble of connecting to the Holocaust denial or at least, if you remember, the direction of the remembrance of the Holocaust.

    When we speak about Netanyahu and the connection to the Visegrad bloc, we speak about the connection to Orban. And they accuse, in what we see as an unjust way, Orban of being anti-Semite. It's completely untrue; whilst it is an image, which is completely untrue in the sense that Orban is investing a lot of money and effort in order to combat anti-Semitism.

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    Sputnik: What is the overall public reaction to this? Are people happy that this meeting is taking place, or are they indifferent? How has the media been covering it?

    Eli Hazan: First of all, the media in Israel is very critical toward Netanyahu; if you ask the international commentators, they don't like it. Especially they don't like the connection with the Polish, not to mention the Hungarians. As for the Israeli public, most of the Israeli public is indifferent.

    On the other hand, when a political leader from Europe, a very important one, is coming to a summit in Jerusalem and not in Tel Aviv, it's considered as an achievement for Netanyahu and it's very important for us.

    Sputnik: Let's talk about the upcoming elections. Actually, we've seen Mr Gantz who is thought to be Mr Netanyahu's primary competition making an appearance. And I believe that in any case, he said that he wouldn't reject a coalition with Likud or a union with Likud. What are your thoughts on that?

    Eli Hazan: Benny Gantz belongs to the left bloc in Israel. We don't intervene in what's happening in the left bloc in Israel. Netanyahu will try to form a government; you know, we have our own way, our own ideology, and if Benny Gantz will agree to the policy of Prime Minister Netanyahu and wants to join this kind of government, I guess we want it, of course.

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    Sputnik: What do you think his chances are?

    Eli Hazan: We are in the State of Israel; you don't know what happens in the future when you speak about the political future. If we take the polls, for instance, of 2015, they predicted that Netanyahu will lose and he won in a very important and a very substantial way. If we take the polls of 2013, they show that Netanyahu was going to win easily and he did it in a very hard way. You simply don't know what's going on in the political arena in Israel because people, at least a lot of Israelis, have a tendency to change their mind on the last day of the election.

    Sputnik: But previously there was an active investigation into Netanyahu and his wife; how big of a deal is that? Is that going to be resolved before people go to vote?

    Eli Hazan: We don't know. But don't forget one thing, it seems to me, I don't want to generalise, but in Israel, the details don't matter. The main question is whether you are in favour of Netanyahu or you're against him. And it seems to me that right now he is very popular. By the way, you can connect it to international achievements, to the political achievements, to the economic achievements and to the place he has brought the State of Israel.

    Sputnik: So you feel that he has a very strong following right now?

    Eli Hazan: Yes. You can see it in the polls in Israel, and you can see it through polls in general — the right bloc is for Netanyahu in general and even inside the party. The main question is how many people will go to vote.

    We are concerned that people will be careful, that they will say that in any case, Netanyahu is going to win so it can bring two ways — either they won't go to vote or it may happen and we're very concerned about it that they will vote for a smaller right-wing party; and in that case that can make us more or less strong.

    READ MORE: Over Third of Europeans Know Little or Nothing About Holocaust — Poll

    Sputnik: How important is this meeting for Netanyahu? Does this meeting with the Visegrad nations play any political play into his popularity in a negative or positive way?

    Eli Hazan: As I told you, those who are against Netanyahu will say that those leaders who are coming to Israel are anti-Semites and things like that. But in general you have to understand that when the Israeli public sees, again and again, the connection of Netanyahu to Trump, to Putin, to African countries, to South American countries and to the Visegrad bloc, it means a lot.

    I want to remind you one more thing, Israel has broken the record of exports in the last two years; there have been two years in a row of breaking the export rates in general.

    The Israelis see that and I guess that they will appreciate it. And one more thing, don't forget that it will be held in Jerusalem, not in Tel Aviv; don't forget the internal discussion in Israel about the importance of Jerusalem and things like that. It works very well for Netanyahu.

    Views and opinions, expressed in the article are those of Eli Hazan and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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