MK Yehuda Glick (Likud) will meet with the head of the Freedom Party of Austria, FPÖ, a right-wing populist and national-conservative political party which in the 2017 national elections gained 26% of the vote and is currently as junior partner in the coalition government. Glick is meeting FPÖ chairman Heinz-Christian Strache, who serves as vice-chancellor of Austria.
In a tweet Friday, Gili Cohen, diplomatic correspondent for Israel Radio, reported that MK Glick insisted he had received approval from Israeli government officials to meet with Strache, despite the Netanyahu government’s decision to avoid contact with Strache government ministers from his party.
Cohen quoted sources in the Prime Minister’s office who said Glick had not informed them about his planned meeting with Strache.
The MK tweeted back: “Traveling with awareness (Nse’ah b’muda, which literally means ‘traveling consciously,’ but more likely means that he is planning to have the meeting despite his awareness of the objections), everything has been checked and approved.”
MK Glick then added: I have an excellent acquaintance with the main characters [in the FPÖ], and the charges against them are nothing more than libel.”
הכל נבדק ואושר
מכיר מצויין את הדמויות הפועלות
ההאשמות כלפיהם הן לא יותר מעלילה.
לא ממש התחברתי להערכה שלך על עבודתי. זכותך המלאה
— yehudah glick (@YehudahGlick) February 9, 2018
Glick then deleted the tweet exonerating Strache and other members of FPÖ, but a copy was preserved by Politwoop Israel, the comprehensive collection of deleted tweets by politicians that “offers a window into what they hoped you didn’t see.”
The FPÖ was founded in 1956, representing the “Third Camp” of Austrian politics, meaning the pan-Germanists and national liberals who opposed both the Socialists and Christian Conservatives. The party’s first leader was Anton Reinthaller, a former SS officer.
In the 1980s and ’90s, the controversial Jörg Haider took the FPÖ helm, resulting in diplomatic sanctions against Austria when his party had its stints in government. Haider was criticized for statements in praise of Nazi policies, and his anti-Semitic remarks. He praised the Nazi government for its “proper employment policy,” and once, during a parliamentary debate, he referred to Nazi concentration camps as “punishment camps.”
The FPÖ has since gone up and down in popularity, gaining a significant share of the vote only in 1999, followed by a sharp drop two years later.
Under Strache’s leadership, FPÖ the party has increased its popular support, winning 20.5% of the the 2013 legislative election. In the 2016 presidential vote, the FPÖ candidate won the first round with 35.1%, but was defeated in the final run-off. Its 26% win last December has brought the party with a dubious past and a worrisome future into Austria’s political mainstream.
Strache, a dental technician by trade, was able to use the Austrians’ resentment, especially among the youth, of their country’s invasion by refugees from Syria and Africa, and has been often accused of fanning the flames of xenophobia. His party’s campaign slogan have included: “Too many foreigners,” “We maintain our homeland, the [rival] SPÖ makes it foreign,” “We believe in our youth, the SPÖ in immigration,” “We protect free women, the SPÖ protects the compulsory veil,” and the all-time favorite, “More courage for our Viennese blood.”