Sunday’s Austrian election could mean a break in diplomatic relations between Israel and Austria if extreme right-wing parties enter a coalition government. Heinz-Christian Strache, who leads the Freedom Party, took part in paramilitary activities with neo-Nazis in the late 1980s and has been known to use the Nazi salute.
According to polls, the Freedom Party could garner close to 20 percent of the vote. In 2000, the inclusion of the Freedom Party in the Austrian government prompted Israel to recall its ambassador to Vienna.
Then-prime minister Ehud Barak said the party’s presence in the government "should outrage every inhabitant of the world."
"The Jewish people, wherever it may be, led by the State of Israel, will never allow the world to conduct business as usual in light of the events in Austria and their possible implications," Barak said at the time.
In a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post last week, Dan Ashbel, Israel’s ambassador in Vienna, said, "We are very concerned about the situation and parties who are xenophobic and base their policies on xenophobia. It is a danger and it is a very sad fact that this repeats itself."
The Freedom Party is campaigning using anti-immigrant slogans, such as "Asylum fraud means a flight home," and is exploiting anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiments to win votes.
The Freedom Party is aligned with self-styled Austrian chief rabbi Moshe Aryeh Friedman, who was barred from the Vienna Jewish community after he took part in the "World Without Zionism" conference in Teheran in 2005 and praised Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
"The rabbi is a good friend of mine… Why, we’ve even had him over to the house!" said John Gudenus, a Freedom Party politician who has been convicted of denying the Holocaust. In Austria, it is unlawful to cast doubt on the extermination of European Jewry as a historical fact.
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