Poland’s Leader Abandons Visegrad Israel Summit over Holocaust Row with Netanyahu
The Visegrad Group of four Central European EU member states has been an important diplomatic ally for Israel.
Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has canceled his participation in an important summit of the Visegrad Group in Israel over recent comments by his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu accusing the Poles of collaborating with the Nazis in the Holocaust during World War II.
Morawiecki was supposed to participate in an upcoming summit in Israel of the Visegrad Group, which includes the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland.
On Sunday, however, he had told Netanyahu he would not attend the important meeting, the office of the Polish Prime Minister announced, as cited by DW.
Poland would still take part in the Israel summit of the Visegrad Group but will be represented by its Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz.
“Prime Minister Morawiecki told Prime Minister Netanyahu in a telephone call that Poland will be represented at the summit by Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz,” Polish government spokesperson Joanna Kopcinska said, as cited by BBC News.
The row between Poland and Israel, which traditionally counts for international support on the four Central European EU member states from the Visegrad Group, erupted after on Thrusday, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu suggested that “Poles cooperated with the Nazis” during World War II and the Holocaust.
He took part in a US-sponsored conference on the Middle East held in the Polish capital Warsaw.
Netanyahu later explained that he had been misquoted by the Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post, and other Israel media, and that he did not mean that the Polish nation or all Poles had collaborated with the Nazis to kill Jews during World War II when Poland was occupied by Germany.
Poland’s government summoned the Israeli Ambassador, Anna Azari, for explanation on Friday, although on Saturday, the head of the Polish Prime Minister’s Office Michał Dworczyk said Netanyahu’s explanation had resolved the issue.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office clarified the matter in a statement, denying the report contained in the Jerusalem Post. I think this statement closes the issue,” Dworczyk said, as cited by Radio Poland.
“In a briefing, PM Netanyahu spoke of Poles and not the Polish people or the country of Poland. This was misquoted and misrepresented in press reports and was subsequently corrected by the journalist who issued the initial misstatement,” the Israeli statement read.
On Sunday, however, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki decided to pull out of the Visegrad Group forum in Israel.
A total of 6 million Polish citizens were killed during the Nazi occupation of Poland during World War II, including 3 million Jews.
The Holocaust row between Poland and Israel comes at a time when Netanyahu had been seeking to consolidate the already existing support of the Visegrad Four countries.
Back in May 2018, Hungary and the Czech Republic allegedly vetoed a joint EU statement criticizing the decision of the USA to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, while the Visegrad Four have abstained from voting against Israel in the UN General Assembly.
Historical disputes over the Holocaust already soured the relations between Poland and Israel back in 2018 because of a Polish law banning accusations that Poland collaborated with the Nazis during World War II.
After protests by Israel and massive US pressure, the law was amended so that nobody found guilty under it would be sent to prison.
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