Poland-Israel war of words escalates as relations deteriorate

Foreign Minister Lapid calls out Polish prime minister’s reaction to Israel downgrading diplomatic relations as “anti-Semitic threats.”

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called the Polish prime minister’s reaction to Israel pulling its top diplomat from the country “anti-Semitic threats.”

Lapid’s comments on Sunday marked an escalating war of words over Warsaw’s new law that will prevent Jews from regaining property lost in the Holocaust and then seized by Poland’s post-war Communist regime.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki had sharply criticized the move as well as Lapid’s statement that went along with it.

“Israel’s decision to downgrade its diplomatic representation in Warsaw is groundless and irresponsible,” he said in a Facebook statement, “and the words of Yair Lapid … enrage every upstanding person.”

“The use of this tragedy for political ends is irresponsible and shameful,” he added. “If the Israeli government continues to attack Poland in such a manner, it will most definitely have a very negative impact on our relations – both bilateral and in international forums.”

The reference to the international arena could be a hint to United Nations and European Union meetings, where Warsaw has voted against anti-Israel resolutions over recent years.

In an immediate response, Lapid tweeted, “the negative impact on our ties began the moment that Poland chose to begin passing laws aimed at harming the memory of the Holocaust and the Jewish people in 2018. Gone are the days when Poles harmed Jews without consequence…. We do not fear anti-Semitic threats, and have no intention of turning a blind eye to the shameful conduct of the anti-democratic Polish government.”

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Lapid had ordered Israel’s charge d’affaires home for “consultations for an indefinite period of time” Saturday night, and told Israel’s incoming ambassador to stay home for now as well because Poland approved “not for the first time – an immoral, anti-Semitic law.” The foreign ministry also advised Poland’s ambassador to Israel, Marek Magierowski, to extend his summer vacation in his home country for the time being.

For its part, the Polish foreign ministry said in a statement that its government would respond in kind to Israel’s “unfounded decision to lower the rank of its diplomatic representation,” citing “the principle of symmetry applicable in bilateral relations.”

Blue and White MK Michael Biton suggested a step that could hurt Poland in its pocket just as the new law hurts people who will now never receive proper restitution for their wartime losses.

“The political crisis with Poland is an opportunity to change our education policy regarding the Holocaust and World War II,” he wrote in a Facebook post.

Instead of bringing thousands of students a year to Poland to tour concentration camps and former ghettoes, “which supports Poland financially,” he suggested that their learning “can be much more significant here in Israel, while bolstering museums, heritage centers and memory projects,” among other endeavors. He also cited a need to expand their knowledge of the Holocaust beyond Europe, to what happened to Jews in North Africa as well.