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December 17, 2017 12:23 pm

Top American, French Jewish Groups Voice Concern Over Entry of Far-Right Party Into New Austrian Government

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Head of the Freedom Party Heinz-Christian Strache (L) and head of the People’s Party Sebastian Kurz address a news conference in Vienna, Austria, Dec. 15, 2017. Photo: Reuters / Leonhard Foeger.

A prominent American Jewish leader voiced criticism on Sunday of the coalition deal reached between Austrian Chancellor-elect Sebastian Kurz’s conservative People’s Party and the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ).

“It is severely disquieting that despite the many real concerns known and expressed about the FPÖ, it will now retain a position of serious influence, giving the Austrian government a real push even further to the right,” World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder stated.

“Mr. Kurz is a capable man, who has shown very positive attitudes toward Israel and the Jewish people, and I wish him luck as chancellor in leading Austria to great success,” Lauder said of Austria’s 31-year-old incoming head of government. “I hope he will make every effort to ensure that the policies set within his government continue to follow a democratic line, and do not dissolve into dangerous populism.

“The FPÖ is a far-right party whose members have in the past expressed xenophobic and anti-Semitic sentiments, yet is has now been charged with overseeing the interior, defense, and foreign ministries, three of the most important and powerful fields of government,” Lauder concluded. “We have heard promises since the election that FPÖ has softened its policies, but this will remain rhetoric until actual proof of this is shown.”

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The Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (CRIF) issued a similar statement, saying, “CRIF is worried to see the far-right parties on our doorstep. How can we imagine the harmonious development of Europe with populist parties that want to destroy it?”

Meanwhile, Israel Hayom reported on Sunday that Kurz’s new government has included a “clear reference to Israel’s Jewish character” in its platform.

According to Israel Hayom, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is the only other in Europe to have done the same before.

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