Israel and Poland restore relations after Holocaust-related spat

July 5, 2022 by Aryeh Savir - TPS
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President Isaac Herzog has discussed with Polish President Andrzej Duda “the promotion of their countries’ bilateral relations” and agreed to restore the relations “to their proper course”.

“Yad Ezer La’Haver” association and Holocaust survivors protesting in front of the Polish embassy in Tel Aviv. Feb 08, 2018. Photo by Kobi Richter/TPS

Herzog, in a joint initiative with the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid, requested the return of Israel’s ambassador to Poland. Duda agreed that the Polish ambassador should be appointed soon and announced that Yaakov Livneh, the new Israeli ambassador-designate to Poland, will present his letters of credence within the next few days.

Both presidents expressed their hope that any future issues between Poland and Israel will be solved through “sincere and open dialogue and in a spirit of mutual respect,” seemingly putting an end to a diplomatic rift that last over a year.

In August 2021, Israel’s leadership took significant diplomatic action against Poland after a law limiting the ability of Holocaust survivors and descendants of Holocaust victims to reclaim their property passed through the final stage of legislation in the country.

The Polish Holocaust Restitution Law sets a 30-year deadline for Jews to recover property seized by Nazi Germany in Poland, essentially preventing any Holocaust-era compensation claims or appeals of past decisions. The law severely restricts the process for Holocaust survivors and their families, as well as other Jewish and non-Jewish property owners, to obtain restitution for property confiscated during Poland’s communist era.

A year ago, Lapid accused Poland of “approving – not for the first time – an immoral, anti-Semitic law.”

“Poland has become an anti-democratic and illiberal country that does not honour the greatest tragedy in human history. We must never remain silent. Israel and the Jewish people will certainly not remain silent,” he declared.​​

He instructed Livneh, Israel’s charge d’affaires in Warsaw, to return immediately to Israel for consultations. Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs recommended that the Polish Ambassador to Israel, who was on vacation in Poland at the time, remain in his country.

Israel’s response meant a temporary lowering of the level of diplomatic relations with Poland, a situation that has now been rectified.

The apparent reconciliation process is taking place despite the fact that the seemingly offensive Polish law is still in place, and although Israel and Poland still disagree on Holocaust-related issues, specifically it’s legacy and history.

Poland maintains that the Polish were victims of the Nazis and not perpetrators, contrary to documented history. Three weeks ago, Israel announced it was cancelling the high school student trips to Poland after it demanded to have input on the content students are taught during their visits to Holocaust-related sites in Poland.

In 2018, Poland adopted a law that prohibits saying that Poles’ were responsible for Jews’ suffering during the Holocaust.

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