Israeli FM Criticizes Poland After Senate Passes Softened Property Bill

Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet
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Foreign Minister Yair Lapid arrives for a Foreign Affairs Council meeting at the EU headquarters in Brussels on July 12, 2021.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid arrives for a Foreign Affairs Council meeting at the EU headquarters in Brussels on July 12, 2021.Credit: JOHN THYS / AFP
Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet

The Polish Senate approved Friday legislation that would restrict restitution claims for property stolen from Jews by the Nazis during World War II and nationalized by the postwar communist regime.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid criticized the move, saying that "Israel is following with great concern the advancement of Poland's legislation on property restitution, property which was stolen from Holocaust victims."

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Lapid added that Israel gravely views "every phase in advancing the legislation. We won't back down on our firm stance regarding the dignity of Holocaust victims, their commemoration and rights."

He went on to say that "the legislation will severely harm our relationship with Poland," adding that "Poland knows very well what the right thing to do is."

The Polish parliament, in May. Credit: Czarek Sokolowski / AP

The legislation, which has led to tensions between Warsaw and Jerusalem, will now go up for a vote in Poland's lower house of parliament, the Sejm. If passed, it would go to the president for final approval. 

Under the previous version of the legislation, which was already approved by the lower house, 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. Under the new amendments passed by the Senate, existing claims will continue to be heard, but with restrictions on the ability to regain the lost property. 

>> Israel seeking U.S. help in fight against Polish Holocaust restitution bill

Gideon Taylor, chair of operations at World Jewish Restitution Organization, called on parliament members to vote against the law. He said that the amended law does not do justice to the plaintiffs.

Jewish organizations and Israel have warned Poland that the law would limit restitution claims on Jewish-owned property that was left in Poland after World War II.

Israel has asked U.S. President Joe Biden's administration to support its effort against the legislation.

Israel’s charge d’affaires in Poland Tal Ben-Ari Yaalon called on members of Poland's legislature to reconsider approving the controversial law.

She was addressing a committee of the lower house of parliament in a rare measure spurred by an escalation of rhetoric between senior Israeli and Polish officials.

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