Photo Credit: Marc Israel Sellem/POOL
Hungary's Viktor Orbán and Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu. July 19, 2018.

In the past 13 years, we Hungarians have learnt our lesson: if you lead a successful conservative government, no matter what, you end up receiving heavy criticism from the mainstream liberal media. This is the challenge that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government has been facing for months now, with forces from the opposition as well as the press using Hungary as a deterrent, warning that following in the footsteps of Hungary would result in a total collapse. For their political opponents, conservative governments are most dangerous when they are successful, supported and reelected by the people, as happened in the case of Hungary.

After Naftali Bennett’s government collapsed in June last year, the elections in November were a clear win for Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party. After five election cycles in just four years, Netanyahu’s victory and the subsequent formation of the coalition is finally bringing much-needed political stability to Israel.


The mainstream liberal media tends to disagree. Soon after the Netanyahu administration got off to a flying start, initiating a series of measures, it came under heavy fire.

Many compared Israel to Hungary, arguing that if Mr. Netanyahu starts following the same path as Viktor Orbán, he is doomed to fail. Former PM Yair Lapid tweeted that Hungary’s economy is failing due to high inflation, and that Israel will face a similar fate under Netanyahu.

Even former Hungarian socialist central bank governor András Simor jumped on the bandwagon, detailing in length how the Hungarian economy is on the brink of collapse. With a leer at the Israeli audience, he even dared to compare Hungary to Franco’s Spain and Salazar’s Portugal.

Despite the raging war in our neighborhood affecting our economy, the harmful sanctions imposed by Brussels, and the severe drought devastating our agriculture, Hungary’s economy’s performance has been among the best in Europe. Due to the ability to maintain international  trust, keep the high investment rate, maintain full employment at over 78%, as well as through the introduction of dedicated government measures, Hungarian industrial production grew by 6%, the highest in Europe, while GDP growth was 4.6% in 2022, double the economic growth of other EU Member States including Germany, Latvia, Finland, Sweden, Czechia, Lithuania, and France.

In light of these results, being compared to Hungary does not seem like such harsh criticism at all.

Hungary’s model proved to be the winning strategy

Before Viktor Orbán’s landslide victory in 2010, the country was in an economic slump. Due to the socialist-liberal government’s mismanagement of the 2008 financial crisis, the Hungarian economy was struggling. During András Simor’s tenure as governor of the Hungarian National Bank, the Hungarian economy was in the worst shape since the 1989 regime change, with GDP growth of – 6.7%, while other Central European countries were doing relatively well, and Israel had a +0.9% GDP growth in 2009. This is when Viktor Orbán came to power and announced the fundamental reforms that put Hungary on the path of growth, resulting in Hungary becoming one of Europe’s fastest growing economies, with a steadily increasing GDP, an unemployment rate under 4%, and record high investment rates. In the past decade, this led to Hungary’s convergence with Western economies increasing by 10 percentage points, surpassing some of the  Southern EU Member States, and catching up with all other countries in Central Europe.

The second pillar was laying the foundation of a work-based society in Hungary. The government’s ability to keep the unemployment rate at a record low had a positive impact on our economic growth, but went far beyond just economic considerations. It had a fundamental impact on the integrity of our society. In order to boost employment, we introduced the personal income tax at a flat-rate of 15%, and over the course of a decade, real wages increased by more than 50% and the minimum wage rose by two-thirds in the same period. In order to incentivize investments, we introduced the lowest corporate income tax in the European Union at 9%.

The third pillar envisioned by Prime Minister Orbán was strengthening the role of the family as an essential building bloc of our society to reverse declining demographic trends, create a strong culture of pro-family sentiments, and help both men and women feel that they do not have to choose between personal and professional success. The results speak for themselves. By investing over 6% of our GDP in family policy, we managed to increase the fertility rate, the number of marriages doubled, the number of divorces halved, and the number of abortions dropped by 50% without having to change regulations. And most importantly, the government did all of these while also managing to maintain the support of Hungarians, as shown by the fourth win with a two-thirds majority in April 2022.

And while the government achieved all these results with the majority support of the Hungarian people, the mainstream media could not stop bashing the Hungarian government – rather like what we see in the case of Israel. The lesson here seems to be that the more success a conservative government achieves, the less positive and fair coverage it gets from the liberal media.

Israel and Hungary both stand for peace in Ukraine

Hungary has always cherished its special relationship with Israel. The Orbán government announced a zero tolerance policy on antisemitism, and the Jewish community in Hungary has been enjoying, as some would vividly say, a new renaissance. Hungary has been a bridgehead for Israel and stands up against all anti-Israeli forces that occasionally emerge in the European political arena. We now count on Israel’s role when it comes to the war in Ukraine. In such difficult times, as the West gets even more deeply involved in the war, the world needs more and more sober voices like that of Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Being successful in standing up for conservative values, thinking in terms of your national interest, and representing your people might not win you a popularity contest among liberal journalists, but it can bring you new friends. It is no coincidence that American conservatives decided to invite Prime Minister Orbán as a guest of honor to their CPAC conference in Dallas last year. In his speech, he reminded conservatives that they should always play by their own rules. They should not be discouraged by being shouted at, by being labeled unfit, or by being treated as troublemakers abroad – the only thing that matters is to let your national interest guide you, and stay true to your electorate.

We wish the best of luck with this endeavor to our friends in Israel.

Share this article on WhatsApp:

Previous articleTehran Denies Enriching Uranium to 84 Percent, Calls Report ‘Distortion of Facts’
Next articleIran Denies Attacking Israeli Oil Tanker
Balázs Orbán is the Political Director of the Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orbán (but not related).