Poland says may withdraw from summit as Israel row escalates

WARSAW (AFP) – Poland warned yesterday that it may pull out of a summit of central European countries in Jerusalem this week on the heels of comments by Israel’s new Foreign Minister accusing Poles of anti-Semitism.

The move comes after Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki backed out of the summit on Sunday, following uproar in Poland over reported comments by Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu about the Poles and the Holocaust.

Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz was due to replace Morawiecki, but a senior government official in Warsaw said yesterday that this was now under a “question mark” following comments by Israel’s Diplomatic Chief Israel Katz.

He told Israel’s i24 television that “there were many Poles who collaborated with the Nazi”.

“The situation has changed since yesterday,” Head of the Polish Prime Minister’s Chancellery Michal Dworczyk, told Polish radio yesterday, adding that “we’re dealing with a disgraceful statement by Israel’s new foreign minister.”

Polish President Andrzej Duda, (L), and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. – AP

“A huge question mark hangs over any participation by a representative of the Polish state in the V4 summit in Israel,” Dworczyk said, referring to the Visegrad Group, that groups the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.

The initial row broke out last week when Netanyahu – who was quoted in Haaretz newspaper as saying that “the Poles collaborated with the Nazis” – was condemned in Poland for appearing to accuse all Polish people of cooperating with Germany during World War II. Warsaw has long been at pains to point out that Poland, which was occupied by Nazi Germany, could not have and did not collaborate in the Holocaust although individual Poles gave up Jews to the Nazis.

The Israeli prime minister’s office had said that Netanyahu had not implicated all Poles in the Holocaust.

It insisted that Netanyahu was “misquoted” in Haaretz and other publications that reported different versions of the quote.

Netanyahu was in Warsaw last week for a two-day summit on the Middle East, co-hosted by Poland and the United States (US), which focussed on isolating Iran while building Arab-Israeli ties.

The fresh controversy in Polish-Israeli ties comes after last year’s row over a Polish law that made it illegal to accuse the Polish nation or state of complicity in Nazi German crimes.

After protests from Israel and the US, Poland amended the law to remove the possibility of fines or a prison sentence.

Poland was occupied by Nazi Germany during World War II and lost six million citizens including three million Jews.