Visiting Israeli Finance Minister Scouts Trade Alliance with Hungary

Israel is exploring the possibilities of a trade partnership with Hungary.

Israeli Finance Minister Yitzhak Moda’i ended a three-day visit here Sunday on an upbeat note. Israel regards Hungary as well endowed to become the business, service and financial center of Central and Eastern Europe.

The Hungarians, for their part, think they could benefit from Israel’s free trade status with the European Community and the United States.

Modai’s visit here, though the first by an Israeli finance minister to a former Eastern bloc country, was overshadowed in the media by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s trip to Washington and Israel’s first official trade mission to China, led by Dan Gillerman, head of the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce.

But all of this activity is part of Israel’s new economic diplomacy.

Israel recognizes that Hungary’s low-wage, high-quality labor force positions the country to be the economic gateway to Eastern Europe. It can be the starting point for further economic and financial contacts in this region.

Last Friday evening, Moda’i visited the Jewish Community Center in Budapest, the third largest in Europe.

He offered Israeli financial assistance to the community, which numbers about 100,000. The Jewish leadership thanked him for the gesture but explained that they did not expect financial help from the Jewish state, which itself is in real need of economic aid, investment and jobs.

However, they said they would like spiritual guidance from Israel and help in interesting more young Hungarian Jews in aliyah.

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