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Polish PM: Israeli reaction to restitution law ‘irresponsible’

CM 15/08/2021 2

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Israel’s decision to recall its chargé d’affaires from Warsaw is outrageous, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Sunday. Jerusalem’s move was in response to a Polish law making it much more difficult for Holocaust victims and their descendants to reclaim property confiscated by the Nazis.
“Israel’s decision to lower the rank of the diplomatic representation in Warsaw is groundless and irresponsible, and the words of [Foreign Minister Yair Lapid] arouse outrage of every honest person,” Morawiecki wrote on Facebook.
“No one who knows the truth about the Holocaust and the suffering of Poland during World War II can agree to such a way of conducting politics,” he added.

Morawiecki accused Israel of using the Holocaust for political reasons – an accusation Lapid has volleyed at the Polish government.
“If the Israeli government continues to attack Poland in this way, it will also have a very negative impact on our relations – both bilateral and those in international fora,” Morawiecki warned, in a possible reference to former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cultivation of ties with Eastern European members of the EU, who would vote against anti-Israel foreign policies.
He also took issue with the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s recommendation that Polish Ambassador to Israel Marek Magierowski extend his vacation in his home country.
There is “an increase of hatred toward Poland and Poles” in Israel, Morawiecki said, and as such, Magierowski’s children need to be evacuated.
Poland never leaves its diplomats in need,” he wrote.
 Poland's President Andrzej Duda attends a ceremony marking the anniversary of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against Nazi occupants in Warsaw, Poland July 31, 2021. (credit: MACIEK JAZWIECKI/AGENJA GAZETA VIA REUTERS) Poland’s President Andrzej Duda attends a ceremony marking the anniversary of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against Nazi occupants in Warsaw, Poland July 31, 2021. (credit: MACIEK JAZWIECKI/AGENJA GAZETA VIA REUTERS)
On Saturday night, the Polish Foreign Ministry said it took a negative view of Israel’s response and its “groundless decision” to recall its envoy, a move that “seriously damaged” the relationship between the two countries.
The Polish government would take “appropriate political and diplomatic actions, bearing in mind the principle of symmetry in bilateral relations,” the statement said.
Lapid said on Sunday that “the negative influence on our relations began at the moment that Poland chose, in 2018 to start passing laws meant to harm the memory of the Holocaust and the Jewish people.
“The days in which Poles hurt Jewish people without a response are over and will not return,” Lapid warned. “Today the Jews have their own proud and strong state. We are not afraid of antisemitic threats and have no intention of blinking in the face of the anti-democratic Polish government’s shameful behavior.”
On Saturday, Lapid announced that Israel’s envoy to Poland, Tal Ben-Ari Yaalon, would be recalled for consultations and Jerusalem would not be sending Ambassador-designate Yacov Livne to Warsaw. The statement came soon after Polish President Andrezej Duda signed into law a 30-year statute of limitations on restitution claims for property that had been seized by the Nazis and then retained by Poland’s communist regime, he said.
The new law was “immoral, antisemitic,” Lapid said.
“We will not tolerate contempt for the memory of those who perished and for the memory of the Holocaust.”
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and several other cabinet ministers also criticized the law.
Lapid said he was working with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on a further response.
About three million Polish Jews were murdered by the Nazis, some 90% of Polish Jewry. Polish communist authorities confiscated property across the country in the 1940s and ’50s, including property that had been owned by Jews before World War II.
Some of the property had been seized illegally and could theoretically be reclaimed through Polish courts. However, the new law would not allow such proceedings to take place if 30 years have passed since the property was confiscated.
Legal proceedings that have already begun, more than 30 years after the confiscation, will be dismissed once the law comes into effect.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.


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