Netanyahu will not attend Polish ceremony marking start of WWII

Polish officials puzzled by prime minister's decision to decline invitation to September 1 event, which will be attended by many world leaders.

Binyamin Netanyahu 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Binyamin Netanyahu 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Sources within Poland's Ministry of Foreign Affairs are mystified by the fact that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will be absent from the 70th anniversary ceremony commemorating the Nazi invasion of Poland. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have already indicated they plan to attend the event, which is set to take place in Gdansk on September 1, and chances are very high that French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown will also be among the dignitaries in the historic Polish port city. The Jerusalem Post has learned that after the invitation issued three months ago by Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk was initially declined, another attempt was made, but the response remained negative, and no explanation was given. Polish officials are puzzled by Netanyahu's attitude, given that Menachem Begin, the founder of his party and the country's first right-wing prime minister, was a soldier in the Polish army and that more than 120,000 Jewish soldiers - 30,000 of whom fell in battle - fought with the Polish forces during World War II. Moreover, Netanyahu's family has roots in Poland, which prior to World War II had the highest concentration of Jews in Europe. Poland frequently supports Israel in the international arena and was one of the countries that promoted the upgrading of relations between the European Union and Israel. In addition, Poland was among the European countries that boycotted Durban II. Moreover, the new president of the European Parliament is former Polish prime minister Jerzy Buzek, the first Eastern European politician to hold the post. Aside from honoring the memories of soldiers and partisans who fought in the war, as well as millions of civilians who were murdered or who died from cold, malnutrition, starvation or one of the diseases that were rampant during wartime, the ceremony in Gdansk would afford Netanyahu the opportunity to meet with those European leaders who could play pivotal roles in the Middle East peace process and who could influence European attitudes vis-à-vis Iran. Mark Regev, a spokesman for the prime minister, told the Post that while Netanyahu was honored to have received the invitation and had hoped to attend an event of such great historical significance, his pressing schedule would not allow the trip.