Polish PM on Netanyahu's Remarks Against Holocaust Law: My Country Was a Victim of Nazi Occupation

In response to Netanyahu's accusation that Poles collaborated with Nazis, Polish president says Israel shouldn't host the Visegrad summit, scheduled for next week

Polish President Andrzej Duda and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the Middle East conference at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland, February 13, 2019.
Kacper Pempel/Reuters

WARSAW - Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki tweeted Friday that his country was a victim to Nazi occupation after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that the Poles collaborated with Nazis during World War II.

Polish President Andrzej Duda also took to Twitter on Friday, suggesting, in response to Netanyahu's statement, that Israel should not host the meeting of the Visegrad nations set to be held in Israel next week.

Duda said he was prepared to make Poland the location of the meeting as Israel is no longer a good place for the summit. Later, the Polish governmnet said they had received clarifications from Netanyahu that his statements had been misunderstood by the media, thereby ending the crisis.

>> Read more: In Warsaw, dream of Arab NATO against Iran shows its cracks | Analysis 

In response to a question by Haaretz, Netanyahu, speaking in Warsaw at a conference on the Middle East, addressed controversial Polish legislation that had previously caused a rift between Israel and Poland.

The Poles collaborated with the Nazis and I don't know anyone who was ever sued for such a statement, Netanyahu said, referring to the controversial Holocaust law that Poland passed in late 2017 and later softened with Israel's blessing, which criminalizes anybody accusing the Polish nation of complicity in Nazi crimes. 

The Prime Minister's Office later released a statement on Friday saying that Netanyahu "spoke of Poles and not the Polish people or the country of Poland . This was misquoted and missrepresented in press reports and was subsequently corrected by the journalist who issued the initial misstatement."

The Israeli ambassador in Warsaw, Anna Azari was summoned Friday for a clarification talk in the Polish Foreign Ministry over Netanyahu's comments.

The Visegrad, or V-4 group, is considered to be the most nationalist and right-wing countries in the European Union, and Netanyahu has systematically cultivated relations with them over the past year as part of a plan to erode the EU consensus on issues concerning the Palestinians and Iran.

Israel was scheduled to host the summit in July 2018, but it was postponed a number of times. The leaders attending the meeting are expected to visit the Western Wall and the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center in Jerusalem.

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid took Netanyahu to task over his plan to host the summit in Israel. Lapid tweeted that "the summit slated for February includes a prime minister who passed a law that humiliates the memory of Holocaust victims and a premier who publishes anti-Semitic materials."

The summit is slated to take place in Jerusalem on February 18 and 19.