Israeli-Polish crisis deepens amid Holocaust-related accusations

A summit that was scheduled to take place in Jerusalem this week, between Israel and the four Central European nations that are known as the Visegrad group, was cancelled after the Polish government withdrew from the conference in protest over Israeli remarks about Poland’s role in the Holocaust. The crisis emerged last week, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly said that the Poles had collaborated with Nazi Germany during World War Two.

In response to Netanyahu’s statement, his Polish counterpart Morawiecki condemned the Israeli Prime Minister and considered canceling his participation in the Visegrad Group’s conference.

Last minute attempts were made, however, by the Israeli mission in Poland – to salvage the conference by downplaying Netanyahu’s referred-to comment. According to the Israeli Ambassador to Warsaw Anna Azari, Netanyahu referred to the Polish law that forbids people in the country from accusing Poland of collaborating with Nazi Germany during the Holocaust.

Regrettably, Jerusalem’s attempts to down-play the crisis failed, after the newly appointed Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz blatantly accused Poles of collaborating with the Third Reich – further escalating the crisis. “In diplomacy, we always try to ensure people don’t get offended, but nobody will change the historical truth for anything of this sort (That the Poles collaborated with the Nazis?) Poles collaborated with the Nazis, certainly, they collaborated with the Nazis. What did Yitzhak Shamir say – his father was murdered by Poles – he said that as far as he is concerned, they suckled antisemitism with their mother’s milk, one cannot beautify this history and we, those who carry the legacy of the Holocaust – all of the nation of Israel no matter where they come from – we will continue to do so,” Katz said.

In response to this interview, Poland immediately announced that it would not attend the Visegrad summit in Israel and condemned the newly appointed Israeli top diplomat for his harsh comments, which the Polish Prime Minister referred to as “totally unacceptable.” According to the Polish Prime Minister, “I have made the decision to cancel the participation of the Polish delegation to the meeting in Israel which was planned earlier so Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz will not go there either. I made this decision because the statement made by Mr Katz, the man appointed to be the (Israeli) Foreign Minister, is totally unacceptable. The words spoken by him are unacceptable not only in diplomacy but for me they are unacceptable anywhere in public. Poland was the nation that suffered most, along with Jews and the Roma (gypsies) during World War Two.”

With the Hungarian and Slovak prime ministers already in Israel, bilateral meetings took place today instead. According to Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak, the decision to postpone the Visegrad plus Israel summit came in solidarity with Poland. He said that “He (Czaputowicz) expressed the wish to react to this statement by postponing the summit and this request was supported by our prime ministers and it was decided that the summit V4 plus Israel will take place in the second half of this year. Well, I really believe this is an expression of our Visegrad solidarity with Poland.”

The Israeli Foreign Ministry refused to respond to TV7’s request for comment, at this stage.