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July 12, 2022 2:56 pm
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Israel and Austria Sign Strategic Pact to Upgrade Relations, Talk Iran Threat and Antisemitism

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer attend a meeting, in Jerusalem, July 12, 2022. Yedioth Ahronoth/Pool via REUTERS

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid  and Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer on Tuesday signed a “comprehensive” strategic partnership to boost cooperation in areas including security, cyber and counter-terrorism, and green tech.

“Signing this agreement is an important moment in the great history we have between our peoples, which will take relations between Israel and Austria to new heights,” Lapid stated at the signing ceremony in Tel Aviv.

The two leaders first met privately and then held an expanded meeting with staff, during which Lapid thanked Nehammer for his support of Israel in both the European Union and multilateral fora.

They discussed security challenges as well as regional issues, with a focus on threats posed by Iran and talks to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement between Tehran and world powers, several rounds of which were hosted in Vienna before reaching an impasse.

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The pair also spoke about Russia’s war in Ukraine and its implications for the Middle East, and steps to deepen Israeli-Austrian cooperation to fight antisemitism and preserve the memory of the Holocaust. The visit comes after Nehammer in January apologized on behalf of Austria to Lapid for the crimes committed at the Nazis’ Mauthausen concentration camp.

Lapid recounted that when he was asked after taking office as caretaker prime minister to name the most exciting moment over the past year, his answer was ready: “The most emotional moment I had — was with you in Mauthausen concentration camp when you told me that on behalf of the people of Austria, you apologize for the killing of my grandfather who died there.”

“I didn’t know it at the time, my mother was watching this at home and she cried. She told me she cried like a child,” he added. “It shows how much you care for this relationship and how much you care for making sure people understand what happened there, in what is known as the other planet, and this is something I will never forget.”

At a commemoration event at the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem, Nehammer emphasized Austria’s historical responsibility for the atrocities of the Shoah, announcing that the government would fund the memorial’s projects with 1.5 million euros through 2024.

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