Poland Recalls Israel Envoy, Considers Downgrading Ties as Row Over Restitution Law Deepens

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Polish ambassador to Israel, Marek Magierowski, with Former Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, in Israel, in 2018.
Polish ambassador to Israel, Marek Magierowski, with Former Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, in Israel, in 2018.Credit: Mark Neiman/GPO

Poland said on Monday its ambassador will not be returning to Israel until further notice, days after Israel recalled its charge d’affaires in Warsaw, deepening a diplomatic crisis between the two countries after Polish President Andrzej Duda approved a controversial law that will restrict the possibility of restitution claims for property stolen from Jews by the Nazis during World War II.

The Polish Foreign Ministry said an embassy worker will temporarily manage it for the time being, and a decision on the level of diplomatic representation in Tel Aviv will be made “in the coming days.”

Ambassador Marek Magierowski has been away on a summer vacation. On Sunday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said he had decided to "safely bring back home the children of Poland's ambassador to Israel," citing concerns of "growing hatred towards Poland and Polish citizens in Israel.” 

Morawiecki also said that Israel's decision to recall its diplomat is "baseless and irresponsible," and that Israel is "irresponsibly" using the Holocaust for its political and partisan agenda.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki arrives for an EU summit at the European Council building in Brussels, in June.Credit: Olivier Matthys,AP

Also on Monday, the deputy foreign minister said Poland is considering limiting Holocaust commemoration trips Israeli students take to his country, in yet another sign of the escalating diplomatic crisis. In an interview on Polish radio, Pawel Jablonski said the tours, seen as a rite of passage for Jewish Israeli high school students, are not done “properly.”

The Israeli education system is responsible, in part for stirring anti-Polish sentiments, Deputy Minister Jablonski claimed, accusing it of producing “propaganda based on the hatred of Poland, which permeates the minds of young people from an early age at school.”

According to him, the Polish government will soon make a decision about these trips, organized by the Israeli Education Ministry.

In late February of last year, Israel cancelled the Holocaust commemoration trips to Poland due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Uri Meiselman, who guides commemoration trips in Poland for Israeli youth, told Haaretz that this is a “tremendous educational and principled enterprise, which is unfortunately often in the hands of politicians, which is happening again in these past few days.” 

He believes that these trips should be left out of the recent debate over the restitution law. “They are the best way to remember and talk about the Holocaust, and to ensure that the lessons of humanity from this period – the darkest of all – never return.”  

In his Monday interview, Jablonski went on to attack Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who accused Poland of antisemitism and "damaging the memory of the Holocaust" over the controversial restitution law, which was approved by the president on Saturday. It restricts restitution claims for property stolen from Jews by Nazis during World War II, and then nationalized by the postwar communist regime.

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