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Polish PM cancels trip to Israel in wake of comments on Poles in Holocaust

February 17, 2019 at 4:34 pm

(L-R) Polish Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are seen during the family photo at the” Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East” co hosted by US and Poland in the National Stadium in Warsaw, Poland on 14 February 2019 [Omar Marques / Anadolu Agency]

Poland’s Prime Minister has cancelled a trip to Israel in the wake of reported remarks made by Israel’s prime minister suggesting Polish complicity during the Holocaust, an aide in his office told Polish media on Sunday.

A government spokeswoman confirmed to Reuters that Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki will not attend the summit and that Poland will send foreign minister Jacek Czaputowicz instead.

Morawiecki informed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of his decision to cancel his visit in a telephone call on Sunday afternoon, spokeswoman Joanna Kopcinska said.

The summit of four central and Eastern European countries is set to be held in Jerusalem this week.

Read: Netanyahu condemns Polish PM for ‘Jewish perpetrators’ comment

Poland’s government has sought to debunk references of potential Polish collaboration in the Holocaust, in an effort to “fight for the truth,” Morawiecki told Poland’s parliament last year.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement the prime minister, who was in Warsaw for a US-sponsored Middle East conference when he made the comments, had been misquoted by The Jerusalem Post, which issued a corrected story.

In a later statement, Netanyahu’s office said in his remarks on the question of Polish collaboration with Nazi occupiers, he had not cast any blanket blame.

Israel’s ambassador to Poland Anna Azari was summoned by Poland’s government on Friday and was asked to clarify Netanyahu’s comments.

READ: Poland summons Israeli ambassador to clarify Netanyahu comments on Poles in Holocaust 

Morawiecki said in an interview published on Sunday by Polish news agency PAP that Azari explained that Netanyahu was referring to individual cases of Poles collaborating with Nazis.

Tensions between Israel and Poland ran high last year after Poland introduced new legislation that would make the use of phrases such as “Polish death camps” punishable by up to three years in prison.

After pressure from the US government and an outcry in Israel, Poland watered down the legislation, removing the prison sentences.

Many Poles still refuse to accept research showing thousands participated in the Holocaust in addition to the thousands who risked their lives to help the Jews.