Israel Asks Poland to Postpone Security Chief’s Visit Due to Crisis Over Holocaust Bill

Pawel Soloch was due to arrive in Israel next week, but Jerusalem officials expect ‘symbolic’ delay of several weeks

Polish senators attending an overnight session in Warsaw on February 1, 2018, where the upper house voted 57-23 to approve the bill that sets fines or a maximum three-year jail term for anyone referring to Nazi German death camps as Polish.
RADEK PIETRUSZKA/AFP

Israel has asked Poland to postpone the upcoming visit by its National Security Bureau chief, due to the two countries’ diplomatic row over legislation criminalizing any suggestion of involvement by the Polish nation in Nazi war crimes.

The visit by Pawel Soloch was planned for next week, but officials in Jerusalem said the delay was expected to be a “symbolic” one of a few weeks.

The diplomatic spat was sparked last week when legislation passed through the lower and upper houses of the Polish parliament, banning any claims that the Polish state was responsible or complicit in the Nazi crimes. It also outlaws the phrase “Polish death camp” and bans minimizing the responsibility of “the real perpetrators” of the crimes.

After the Polish Senate (upper house) passed the bill overnight on Thursday, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said Israel vehemently opposes the legislation and “takes a grim view of any attempt to undermine historic truth.”

Another source said Israel was “deeply disappointed” with the law’s progress, in light of its relationship with Poland and the relationship’s importance to both countries. He said the law passing in the upper house “runs contrary to the spirit of the conversation Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held with his Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki, in which they agreed to engage in immediate dialogue to reach understandings on the matter.”

Strategic Affairs Minister Yisrael Katz called on Netanyahu (who is also Israel’s foreign minister) to recall Israel’s ambassador to Poland immediately following the bill’s passage.

“The law the Poles have enacted is a severe move and constitutes renouncing responsibility and denying Poland’s part in the Jewish Holocaust,” Katz said in a statement on Thursday morning.

“When weighing the diplomatic considerations, it must be clear: Commemorating the Holocaust victims is more important than any other consideration,” he said.

The United States asked Poland earlier this week to reconsider enacting the bill, saying it could impact Poland’s “strategic interests and relationships.” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert voiced Washington’s concern that the legislation could “undermine free speech and academic discourse.”

The Polish legislation now has one more hurdle to cross before entering the law books – the approval of Polish President Andrzej Duda.