POLAND’S PRIME Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
(photo credit: REUTERS/MICHAELA REHLE)
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki will not attend the Visegrad Group summit in Israel on Tuesday and is sending Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz instead, as the brouhaha over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s comments regarding the role of some Poles in the Holocaust refuses to die.
Polish government spokeswoman Joanna Kopcinska confirmed to Reuters that Morawiecki informed Netanyahu, whom he met last Thursday in Warsaw, of his decision to cancel his visit during a telephone call Sunday afternoon.
Morawiecki was scheduled to arrive on Monday for the two day summit, joining Netanyahu and the prime ministers of Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The three other prime ministers are still scheduled to arrive for the first Visegrad summit to be held outside of Europe.
Morawiecki’s surprise announcement came after it appeared that Warsaw had accepted a clarification put out by the Prime Minister’s Office on Friday, saying that Netanyahu was misquoted last week after being asked in a briefing whether he held Poland complicit for Jewish deaths in the Holocaust.
In the briefing, the clarification said that Netanyahu “spoke of Poles and not the Polish people or the country of Poland” who had collaborated with the Nazis. The clarification added that Netanyahu’s words were misquoted and misrepresented in the press.
A diplomatic official in Jerusalem responded to the cancellation of Morawiecki’s visit by welcoming the arrival of the Polish foreign minister, adding that Israel is expecting a successful summit.
Hinting that Morawiecki’s cancellation was tied to the Polish elections to be held this fall, the official said, “we understand that Poland also has an election campaign.”
Morawiecki’s right-wing government has led the battle – popular with large segments of the Polish population – to ensure that Poland as a nation is not accused of Nazi crimes or collaborating with Hitler.
This fight led to proposed legislation that was later amended and would have made it a crime to assert that Poland was complicit in the Holocaust.
Jonny Daniels, a London-born Israeli considered close to Morawiecki, told Maariv that Morawiecki’s decision not to attend the summit is not a “deep crisis” in bilateral ties, but rather is a form of protest over Netanyahu’s remarks.
Poland is not burning its bridges with Israel, he said. “My impression is that everyone is trying to take a deep breath and hope that this matter will pass because both sides have long-term mutual interests.”
Daniels added that the Polish prime minister did not want to become involved in the Israeli election campaign and decided to send his foreign minister instead.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, who has been very vocal in his opposition to what he views as Netanyahu’s appeasement of the Poles, posted withering criticism of Netanyahu’s clarification of his comments last week, saying that Netanyahu should have told the Polish prime minister that he was not welcome in Israel.
Daniels added that the Polish prime minister did not want to become involved in the Israeli election campaign and, as such, decided to send the foreign minister instead.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, who has been very vocal in his opposition to what he views as Netanyahu's appeasement of the Poles, posted withering criticism of Netanyahu's clarification of his comments last week, and said that Netanyahu should have told the Polish prime minister he was not welcome in Israel.
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