Polish president pledges to back Israel on gravity of Iranian threat

Poland would make its voice heard load and clear on Israel's behalf in meetings of NATO and the European Union, Kaczynski pledged.

Polish President Lech Kaczynski expressed condolences to the State of Israel and to the families of the three soldiers killed by Hamas in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday. He spoke both in a private meeting with visiting President Shimon Peres and at a subsequent joint press conference. Poland would make its voice heard load and clear on Israel's behalf in meetings of NATO and the European Union, Kaczynski pledged, adding that Poland sees eye-to-eye with Israel on the gravity of the Iranian nuclear threat and on the dangers of terrorism. However, he was evasive when an Israeli journalist asked him if sanctions against Iran failed, leaving no choice other than to take more decisive preventive action, would Poland join in such an operation. Clearly unwilling to make a commitment, Kaczynski, preferred to throw the ball into the court of the EU, of which Poland is a member. In their private meeting, Peres had told Kaczynski that Europe was too anemic in its attitude to Iran and doesn't seem to realize that if Iran acquired nuclear weapons, not only Israel was at risk, but Europe and the entire world. The two presidents discussed the establishment of a public/private foundation for cooperative efforts in security, science, technology, nanotechnology, culture and education. "I'm glad that we have taken this important step toward furthering our relations," said Kaczynski, who added that Poland wanted to become more involved in the Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic process and that it was using all its resources to secure the release of the three IDF soldiers abducted in 2006. Kaczynski had asked whether there would be peace with the Palestinians; Peres said yes, but that he could not say when this would happen, because Hamas was trying to destroy the Palestinian Authority. Peres told Kaczynski that he was pleased that Poland had developed good working relations with Fatah. In their talks about security and defense, the two presidents also discussed Israeli assistance in the upgrading of Poland's army. The Polish army furnishes part of the UN peace-keeping forces in South Lebanon. Peres expressed appreciation for Poland's support of Israel, and for Poland's willingness to become more involved in the Middle East peace effort. He was particularly appreciative of Poland's agreement to contribute to the building of a peace village "that will benefit Israel, the Jordanians and the Palestinians." Asked by an Israeli journalist whether Poland felt more at ease with itself after Peres's public statements regarding responsibility for the Holocaust, Kaczynski said that while many major concentration camps were on Polish soil, it must be emphasized that from 1939-45, Poland was under Nazi occupation. Nonetheless because most of those who perished at the hands of the Nazis were Polish citizens, "we feel a sense of responsibility for their fate," he said. There was anti-Semitism in Poland in the past, but not the kind linked with genocide; Jews were murdered by Poles, he said, but these were criminal activities said Kaczynski. "Genocide was not a Polish program." His argument was endorsed by Peres. Extolling the virtues of the new Poland, Peres said that the new regime worked toward peace and good relations with Israel because it did not want the evils of the past to return. "We have a common thousand-year history, which is scarred in parts - but there are also pinpoints of light," he said. Asked whether he had done the right thing to meet with former US president Jimmy Carter after the latter had been shunned by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Peres said he had not received any request from the government to boycott Carter. He told Carter, he said, that he had made a mistake in meeting with the PLO leadership. While it was perfectly in order to criticize Carter, Peres said, there was no reason to boycott him, especially considering the role he played in attaining a peace treaty with Egypt.