(photo credit: AP)
Polish President Lech Kaczynski commenced a four-day trip to Israel and the Palestinian Authority Sunday that is set to include discussions on his country's UNIFIL commitments and the state of Israel-Poland ties.
Poland currently has some 215 soldiers in Lebanon under the United Nations force and has pledged another 300 troops to the new international peacekeeping effort.
Kaczynski's schedule includes meetings with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and President Moshe Katsav.
He also plans to visit Yad Vashem, meet with the management of the Ghetto Fighters' Museum, which chronicles Jewish resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto, and give a speech on Israeli-Polish relations at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, which will be opening an exhibition on Jewish fighters in the Polish Army as part of the event.
Poland is "one of Israel's better friends in Europe," said Efraim Zuroff, Israel director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. However, he added, the current coalition, headed by Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Kaczynski's twin brother, has been "problematic" because of the "anti-Semitic backgrounds" of two member parties.
Most troubling, Zuroff said, has been the League of Polish Families' holding the education portfolio. The responsibility for programs such as Holocaust-related educational tours of Poland has been transferred to another ministry, he noted.
"Right now we're at a complex juncture in Polish-Jewish relations," Zuroff said. "Whenever the president comes it's an opportunity to raise issues that are of concern."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.