Warsaw to attend V4 Jerusalem summit as Nazi comments clarified

Claiming press distortion of his words, Netanyahu will host Poland at Visegrad meeting

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu: has corrected what he meant by the Poles having co-operated with the Nazis. Photograph:  Jack Guez

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu: has corrected what he meant by the Poles having co-operated with the Nazis. Photograph: Jack Guez

 

Poland says it will attend next week’s Visegrad summit in Jerusalem, ending a diplomatic crisis with Israel sparked by comments from Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who had said that Poles co-operated with the Nazis.

In a press conference in Warsaw on Thursday following a conference on Middle East peace and security, Mr Netanyahu was asked about the Polish law that makes it illegal to blame the Polish nation for Holocaust crimes.

He said that the law had not been used against anyone and that “here I am saying Poles co-operated with the Nazis. I know the history, and I don’t whitewash it. I bring it up.”

On Thursday night, Polish president Andrzej Duda called on the Visegrad, or V4, summit, slated to take place in Jerusalem, to be moved to Poland, in light of Mr Netanyahu’s comments.

Mr Duda said on Twitter that he would be ready to host the summit in the president’s residence, saying that “Israel is not a good place to meet in this situation, despite previous arrangements.”

Israel’s ambassador to Warsaw, Anna Azari, was summoned to the Polish foreign ministry for clarification.

‘Misquoted and misrepresented’

“Prime minister Netanyahu spoke of Poles and not the Polish people or the country of Poland. This was misquoted and misrepresented in press reports and was subsequently corrected,” said a statement from the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem on Friday.

A spokesman for Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki issued a statement saying, “We have received clarifications from Israel and the crisis is over. This was journalistic manipulation.” He tweeted that Poland, too, was a victim of the Nazi occupation.

The V4 is an alliance of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. All four states are considered pro-Israel and Mr Netanyahu has cultivated close ties with the V4 as a counterweight to what Israel perceives as the anti-Israel bias in some west European EU states.

Holocaust role

Next week’s summit in Jerusalem would mark the first time the group has met outside of Europe. Israel was scheduled to host the summit in July 2018, but it was postponed a number of times.

Yair Lapid, the head of the opposition centrist Yesh Atid party, criticised Mr Netanyahu. “Instead of the Poles apologising to us for the millions who perished in Poland during the Holocaust, for their assistance to the Nazis, Netanyahu apologises to them.”

Mr Lapid suggested that Mr Netanyahu should have told the Polish prime minister: “Cancel the plane ticket now, don’t come here, because we don’t grovel over the memory of the Holocaust and don’t conduct negotiations over it because we have national pride and honour, and we honour the memory of those who perished.”