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Poland Waiting for Apology from Israel over ‘Shameful’ Comments

Poland Waiting for Apology from Israel over ‘Shameful’ Comments

Tuesday, 19 February, 2019 - 19:15
Hungarian PM Viktor Orban, left, and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu attend a press conference after their meeting in Jerusalem, February 19, 2019. (AP)
Poland is expected an apology from Israel after “shameful” comments by Israeli minister Israel Katz last week.

Deputy Foreign Minister Szymon Szynkowski vel Sek said Tuesday the "shameful, scandalous and slanderous" comments require an "unequivocal and definite" reaction.

Katz said last week that Poles collaborated with Nazi Germans and "sucked anti-Semitism with their mothers' milk."

The remarks prompted Poland to pull out of a summit of central European nations in Jerusalem and the summit was canceled.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instead hosted a series of sit-downs Tuesday with his Czech, Slovakian and Hungarian counterparts.

The first gathering outside Europe of the Visegrad group was supposed to be a crowning achievement for Netanyahu in his outreach to central and eastern Europe.

Netanyahu held back-to-back meetings with Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban before hosting all three for lunch at his official residence.

Netanyahu has courted these emerging democracies to counter the criticism Israel faces internationally, including from western European allies, over its policies toward the Palestinians.

In what Netanyahu called "a very important achievement," all three countries announced plans to open diplomatic offices in Jerusalem - a step seen by Israel as solidifying its claim to the contested city.

But hovering over it all was the absence of Poland, the fourth member of the group. In brief comments alongside the three visiting leaders, Netanyahu made no mention of the elephant in the room, focusing instead on a range of joint economic, technological and cultural projects.

Orban, another leader who has trod into the sensitive terrain of World War II conduct, was the only one to address the diplomatic crisis. He said he hoped the countries could resolve their dispute and "improve the situation."

"It's always better together with them than without them," he said of Poland.

The fallout between Israel and Poland, typically close allies, began last week when Netanyahu, pressed by reporters accompanying his visit to Warsaw, acknowledged that "Poles cooperated with the Nazis."

Netanyahu later sought to clarify that he "spoke of Poles and not the Polish people or the country of Poland," but the comments infuriated his Polish hosts, who reject the suggestions.

Poland was the first country occupied by Adolf Hitler's regime and never had a collaborationist government.

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