An Israeli who confessed to spitting on Poland’s ambassador at a time of heightened tensions between the countries was convicted on Monday of assault, an offence that could carry up to two years in jail.
Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court deferred sentencing of Erik Lederman, 65, who under a plea bargain was spared an additional charge of criminal threats against the envoy, Marek Magierowski.
In the May 14 incident, police said Lederman struck a car carrying Magierowski, then opened the door and spat on him twice. Lederman had apologised, saying the car had honked at him and he had not known the ambassador was inside.
According to a transcript of Monday’s hearing, Lederman’s lawyer said his client had been aware that the car carried embassy staff “but not necessarily the ambassador himself and his driver”.
The lawyer asked the court to consider Lederman’s lack of a criminal record in sentencing and suggested that he warranted “non-conviction” – under Israeli legal procedure, an accelerated expunging of the assault case from his files.
But prosecutors were opposed to this, the lawyer noted.
At the indictment stage, Lederman said he had come to the embassy to inquire about Polish restitution for his family, which had been through the Holocaust and had been turned away. He said an embassy employee used an anti-Semitic slur when he was there – an account denied by Magierowski.
Polish-Israeli relations deteriorated this year over accusations that Warsaw has tolerated a revival of anti-Semitic behaviour – something it denies – and disagreement over the degree of Polish involvement in the Nazi genocide of the Jews.
A lawyer who attended Monday’s hearing on behalf of the Polish embassy voiced disappointment at not having been informed in advance of the plea bargain, saying that to have done so would have been “collegial, at least”.