Poland’s decision to pull-out from a summit of the Visegrad Group plus Israel, after a diplomatic dispute emerged over Israeli accusations of Polish complicity with Nazi Germany during the Holocaust; has forced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to alter his schedule and hold three separate bilateral meetings with his visiting counterparts from Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary.
The three central European leaders have arrived in Jerusalem for the planned Israeli-hosted summit, prior to the Polish decision. While all three leaders underscored their warm relations with the Jewish State, they also alluded to their frustration over the cancelling of the summit and urged Warsaw and Jerusalem to resolve their diplomatic dispute. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said it would have been better had Poland attended the gathering. After acknowledging his nation’s close friendship and cooperation with both Jerusalem and Warsaw, he said “when you have two friends having a discussion with each other, the only hope you can have is that they will talk directly with each other and improve the situation.”
Poland withdrew from the summit after Israel’s Acting Foreign Minister, Israel Katz, said earlier this week that “many Poles” had collaborated with the Nazis in World War Two and shared responsibility for the Holocaust. While this topic is a sensitive issue on which both countries vehemently disagree, Czech Republic Prime Minister Andrej Babis expressed confidence “this problem” would be resolved in the near future, and not damage the important cooperation between Poland and Israel.
Slovakian Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini announced that the important Visegrad plus Israel summit will be rescheduled to take place in his nation during the second half of 2019.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refrained from discussing the crisis with Poland in a video statement released after the three separate meetings with his Central European counterparts. He instead chose to highlight Israel’s growing relations with Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary – all of whom have taken steps to elevate their diplomatic presence in Jerusalem. Netanyahu said that after months of efforts at his initiative, not has Prague opened ‘the Czech House’ in the city, but now Budapest has decided to open a diplomatic branch of the Hungarian Embassy in the city and Slovakia will establish an innovation and cultural center. He described these developments as “a very important achievement.”
Warsaw has demanded an official apology from Jerusalem over the diplomatic dispute. Despite repeated from TV7, the Israeli Foreign Ministry has yet to issue a response regarding any intended actions vis-à-vis the crisis with Poland.