Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki attends a commemoration event at the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz II-Birkenau, during the ceremonies marking the 74th anniversary of the liberation of the camp and International Holocaust Victims Remembrance Day.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel plans to host its first-ever Visegrad summit in a move designed to highlight the country’s strong ties with Eastern Europe.
The prime ministers of four countries – Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia – will be in Israel on February 18 and 19. It will be the first time the V4 group will meet outside Europe.
Poland’s participation, however, had been temporarily in doubt after the media, including The Jerusalem Post, misreported comments Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made in Poland at a closed-door briefing with Israeli reporters on Thursday.
At issue was whether Netanyahu held the Polish nation complicit for Jewish deaths in the Holocaust.
Netanyahu told reporters that “Poles cooperated with the Nazis” during World War II.
He spoke while in Warsaw as he sat in the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, located in the heart of what had been the Warsaw Ghetto.
“I am saying it here. There is no argument about this,” Netanyahu said. He differentiated between the past and the present, however, as he explained that today antisemitism is worse in Western Europe than in Eastern Europe.
Journalists who listened to him, believed he had spoke of “the Poles,” a phrase that implies the Polish nation. The Post added this point in during the editing process of a web article, thereby compounding the mistake.
Polish President Andrzej Duda tweeted that if the report was true, the V4 summit should be canceled. Israel’s ambassador to Poland was reportedly summoned for a meeting with the Polish Foreign Ministry.
The Prime Minister’s Office then played an audio clip to reporters of the exact quote and issued a clarification. “In a briefing, PM Netanyahu spoke of Poles and not the Polish people or the country of Poland,” the PMO stated.
The Polish government accepted the clarification.
The issue is a particularly sensitive one between Israel and Poland, because Poland last year passed a law that prohibits broad statements that Poland collaborated with the Nazis during World War II.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who is due to represent Poland at the V4 meeting in Israel, tweeted that the Nazis murdered 6 million Polish people during World War II, including 3 million Polish Jews.
Poland, he said, was the victim of a brutal Nazi occupation and paid an unimaginable price. The Polish nation did not collaborate with the German Nazis, he said, adding that it had stood on the side of good against unimaginable evil.
Polish soldiers fought every day for the freedom of all nations, Morawiecki said.
He met with Netanyahu in Warsaw on Thursday and stood together with him and US Vice President Mike Pence for a brief memorial ceremony at the Warsaw monument.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid attacked Netanyahu after resolving the crisis, saying “Instead of the Poles apologizing to us for the millions who perished in Poland during the Holocaust, for their assistance to the Nazis, Netanyahu for the second time apologizes to them.”
Lapid said Netanyahu “should have told the Polish prime minister: Cancel the plane ticket now. Don’t come here, because we don’t grovel over the memory of the Holocaust and don’t conduct negotiations over it because we have national pride and honor, and we honor the memory of those who perished.”
Netanyahu returned to Israel on Friday after a three-day trip to Warsaw to attend a US-led ministerial summit on Iran and regional issues.
During his time there, he also met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the foreign ministers of Oman, Brazil and Great Britain.
Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.
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