Lapid: Netanyahu-era Declaration Rejecting Polish Blame for Holocaust 'Not in Effect'

'On the Polish subject, I don’t think there needs to be continuity with the previous government's policy,' Foreign Minister Lapid says

Michael Hauser Tov
Michael Hauser Tov
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Foreign Minister Yair Lapid speaking in the Moroccan capital, Rabat, on Wednesday.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid speaking in the Moroccan capital, Rabat, on Wednesday.Credit: Fadel Senna/AFP
Michael Hauser Tov
Michael Hauser Tov

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid reiterated on Thursday that the new Israeli government no longer supports a 2018 joint declaration issued by the Polish government and the previous Israeli government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu that had rejected blaming Poland for the crimes of the Nazis and their collaborators during the Holocaust.

"The declaration issued during Netanyahu's time with Poland on the subject of the Holocaust is not in effect in my view and not for the current [Israeli] government," Lapid told a press conference in the Moroccan capital, Rabat. "The subject of the relations with Poland is in my area of authority. All of the members of the cabinet know my positions on the subject. On the Polish subject, I don’t think there needs to be continuity with the prior government's policy."

On Wednesday, Lapid had said that Israel was reexamining the 2018 joint statement rejecting blame against Poland for Nazi crimes after the Polish parliament passed legislation limiting restitution claims for property stolen by the Nazis during World War II. The legislation requires the signature of Polish President Andrzej Duda before it can take effect.

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"The State of Israel will not compromise on a single comma when it comes to the memory of the Holocaust." Lapid tweeted on Wednesday. "I condemn the Polish parliamentary law that was approved today, that damages the memory of the Holocaust and the rights of its victims."

He added that he has opposed the Israeli-Polish joint statement since its inception, and that "it is currently being re-examined."

The 2018 statement was issued by then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki following Poland's decision to amend a controversial law that criminalized accusing the Polish nation of complicity in Nazi crimes. The joint statement read: "We reject the actions aimed at blaming Poland or the Polish nation as a whole for the atrocities committed by the Nazis and their collaborators of different nations."

Speaking on Thursday, Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki said the law would implement a 2015 ruling by Poland's Constitutional Tribunal requiring that a deadline be set after which faulty administrative decisions could no longer be challenged.

Critics of the joint statement, including prominent Israeli historians, said it distorts history. Prof. Yehuda Bauer, a leading Holocaust historian, dubbed it a “betrayal” that “hurt the Jewish people and the memory of the Holocaust.”

In his statement on Wednesday, Lapid said, "I will continue to stand against every attempt to rewrite history and promote compromises and concessions at the expense of the Holocaust of the Jewish nation and the rights of the victims of the Shoah. Poland knows the right thing to do: to overturn the law."

The law on restitution claims, which was approved by the Polish Senate last month and passed on Wednesday by the lower house of parliament, has led to tensions between Warsaw and Jerusalem. Lapid has vocally opposed the legislation for months.

It stipulates that outstanding claims for the restitution of seized property that have not reached a final decision in the last 30 years would be halted or dismissed. In addition, new appeals of administrative decisions made over 30 years ago would also be forbidden.

It affects Jewish and non-Jewish owners who had properties seized in the communist era. In the case of the former Jewish owners, they were often the homes or business of families who were wiped out in the Holocaust and whose properties were later seized by Poland's communist-era authorities.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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