JERUSALEM (Jan. 25)
Israel and Hungary will soon exchange resident trade representatives, Israel Radio reported Sunday citing authoritative sources here.
The report followed a statement over the weekend by Joszeg Gyorke, head of the Communist Party’s Foreign Affairs Department in Budapest, that Hungary is interested in ties with Israel, though it was “not timely” to speak of full diplomatic relations.
Israel Radio also disclosed a meeting two months ago between Minister of Commerce and Industry Ariel Sharon and Hungary’s Minister for Foreign Trade, Peter Verecz. Trade between Hungary and Israel is estimated at about $20 million a year.
Hungary broke diplomatic relations with Israel, as did all Communist bloc states except Rumania, after the 1976 Six-Day War. Recently there have been signs of a thaw. Israel and Poland established interest sections in Warsaw and Tel Aviv, respectively, late last year. But full diplomatic ties seem elusive at present.
Israeli observers have noted a marked easing of travel access to Hungary by holders of Israeli passports in recent years. Many Israeli of Hungarian origin have visited their former homeland as individuals or in organized groups.
There are an estimated 80,000-90,000 Jews in Hungary today, the largest Soviet bloc Jewish community outside the USSR. Although they enjoy relative religious freedom and have a lively cultural life, the Hungarian Jewish community is eroding due to a high level of intermarriage and assimilation.