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Netanyahu Sparks Diplomatic Crisis at Warsaw Summit

Netanyahu Sparks Diplomatic Crisis at Warsaw Summit

Saturday, 16 February, 2019 - 06:15
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks at the Warsaw summit earlier this week sparked a diplomatic crisis with his host after reported comments appeared to show him accuse Poland of complicity in the Nazi Holocaust.

The Israeli PM was in the Polish capital to attend a conference on the Middle East.

Israel's Haaretz newspaper quoted Netanyahu as saying: "The Poles collaborated with the Nazis, and I don't know anyone who was ever sued for such a statement."

Yaakov Katz, the Jerusalem Post's editor, told Reuters the account in his newspaper had used the term "Polish nation", although not in a direct quote from Netanyahu, and the story was swiftly amended to reflect what he really said.

The Polish Foreign Ministry summoned the Israeli ambassador for an explanation.

But a deputy foreign minister, Szymon Szynkowski vel Sek, said the explanations given by Israel so far are "unclear" and that Warsaw is still awaiting a clarification that would leave it without any doubts.

Poland has expressed an "expectation that the Israeli side will say in a clear way what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meant when he said the words that were quoted by the Israeli media," Szynkowski vel Sek said.

He added, though, that this did not impact on the leaders' upcoming meeting slated to start Monday in Jerusalem.

Commenting on Netanyahu's remarks, Polish President Andrzej Duda raised a question mark over a two-day summit in Jerusalem next week of the four central European nations - Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Duda said that if Netanyahu had said what was originally reported, "Israel would not be a good place to meet in spite of the previous arrangements".

He offered his own presidential residence as an alternative venue.

Later, Netanyahu's office weighed in with another statement, saying: "Netanyahu spoke of Poles and not the Polish people or the country of Poland. This was misquoted and misrepresented in press reports and was subsequently corrected by the journalist who issued the initial misstatement."

Netanyahu has sought to use the so-called Visegrad group as a counterweight to western European Union criticism of Israel's policies towards the Palestinians.

The Holocaust is still an extremely sensitive subject in Poland, even nearly 80 years after World War II.

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