Israeli Reactions to V4 Jerusalem Event Cancellation

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Published on 18 Feb 2019, 16:48
NEWS DESK | Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his acting foreign minister Yisrael Katz both accused Polish people of collaborating with the Nazis against Jews during the WWII occupation. This comes at a sensitive time as the Visegrad 4 conference was scheduled to be hosted in Jerusalem. Now, the event is canceled. Our Ellie Hochenberg analyzes.

Story:

A gathering of the leaders of the so-called Visegrad nations in Israel was nixed on Monday after Poland cancelled its participation accusing Israel's foreign minister of ,racist, comments about the culpability of Poles for crimes committed during the Holocaust, in a row that has stoked outrage and soured relations.

Slovak government spokeswoman Patricia Macikova told AFP this week's summit with Israel and the Visegrad Four (V4) — the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia — would be postponed until later in the year following Poland's pull out.

'The prime ministers of Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary will use the visit for bilateral meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu as well as a trilateral meeting,' she added, speaking for Slovak Premier Peter Pellegrini, who currently chairs the V4 group.

However, Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said it was not immediately clear whether Israel would hold a summit with the remaining participants or instead organize a series of separate meetings.

Poland had earlier demanded that Israel apologize for what it called a 'racist' comment made by its new foreign minister Yisrael Katz during an interview with i24NEWS and Israel Hayom on Sunday evening, in which he quoted former Israeli premier Yitzhak Shamir, who was well-known for the kind of radical anti-Polish sentiment not uncommon among Holocaust survivors.

'The Poles suckle anti-Semitism from their mother's breasts,' Yisrael Katz said during a special joint i24NEWS-Israel Hayom election program on Sunday.

The comment further inflamed a spat between the two countries sparked over the weekend by provocative comments made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Warsaw which tested the limits of a controversial Polish law that criminalizes attributions of blame to the Polish state for atrocities committed under Nazi occupation.

In response to the premier's remarks, the Polish prime minister cancelled his planned attendance at the Visegrad conference, being held for the first time in Israel, and said he would send lower representation to the summit instead.

But Warsaw withdrew from the summit altogether after Katz's remarks, which Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called 'shameful and racist'.

Poland is very sensitive to instances attempting to portray it as a perpetrator, rather than a victim, of the horrors of the second world war.

'Such words are unacceptable, not only in diplomacy, but also in the public sphere. The Poles suffered the most alongside Jews and Roms,' the prime minister tweeted Monday after announcing the pullout.

'In Western Europe and in many other places, the rescue of the Jews was paid a great sacrifice,' the premier added.

The Israeli ambassador to Poland was summoned for consultation in Warsaw for the second time this week, while a Polish official told Ynet the Polish government was even considering recalling their ambassador to Israel in response to the latest remarks.

Last year, ties between Poland and Israel became strained following a law tabled in the Polish parliament that would prohibit the mention of 'Polish death camps' or any insinuation that it played a supporting role in the atrocities committed by the Nazis.

Polish people took to social media to express their outrage at Katz's comment, tweeting images of famous Polish people who helped Jews during the Holocaust with the hashtag #saynotoracism.

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