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Israel's ambassador to Poland on Friday decried as "incomprehensible" the appointment of a Polish ultra-nationalist who heads a far-right party with anti-Semitic ideology as Poland's education minister.
"It is incomprehensible that issues likes Israeli-Polish youth exchanges and Holocaust issues will be directed by the head of an anti-Semitic party," Ambassador David Peleg said in an address at Krakow's Jewish culture festival.
His comments were the harshest public remarks to date by an Israeli official against the appointment of Polish Education Minister Roman Giertych.
Peleg, who is boycotting the new Polish education minister, said that he expected the jurisdiction over Jewish-Polish youth exchanges and Holocaust education would be transferred to an alternate Polish government ministry, as promised by the Polish government.
"We definitely hope that the assurances will be followed by deeds," Peleg said.
He noted that the Polish government had assured him that the inclusion of the minister's fringe party in the coalition was based on purely political needs, and did not represent any shift in the policies of the government.
Peleg added that Israel expected the issue to be resolved by September, when Polish President Lech Kaczynski is expected to visit Israel on his first official visit since being elected last year.
Israeli and Jewish officials have been concerned over the appointment of Giertych, the 35-year-old extremist party leader whose party won only 8 percent of the vote in last year's Polish election, to such a prestigious government position.
Giertych's grandfather was a staunch advocate of anti-Jewish boycotts, with his party rooted in a nationalist movement which, between the two world wars, succeeded in both segregating and limiting the number of Jews at Polish universities. The party's youth wing has in the past made Nazi salutes and chanted Nazi slogans.
The concern is compounded by the fact that the Polish Education Ministry has until now been charged with joint youth programs between Israelis and Poles, interactions which are considered to be a cornerstone of future relations between the two countries.
The discord over the move follows a decade of burgeoning Israeli-Polish relations, with governmental relations between the two countries now considered to be among the best in Europe.
"The relationship between Israel and Poland has reached a point where we can talk to each other - on a government-to-government level and on a person-to-person level - in a very frank way about all painful issues to both people relating to the Second World War," Peleg said in his address, held in Krakow's Kupa Synagogue.
Earlier this week, the Polish Ambassador to Israel Agnieszka Magdziak-Miszewska told The Jerusalem Post that a new government department, which will oversee the broadening of youth exchanges between Israel and Poland, will circumvent Giertych's jurisdiction.