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Israel, Poland seek to improve ties, resume youth Holocaust trips

Orgnized tour groups visit in the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp in Poland. It was the largest of the German concentration camps. Sept. 19, 2021. Photo by Nati Shohat/FLASH90

With Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu back at the nation's helm, Israel is seeking to restore ties with Poland following an extended period of silence. 

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen on Tuesday night called his Polish counterpart, Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau, for the first direct correspondence between the two foreign ministries in two years. 

Rau reportedly said he will examine the possibility of appointing a new Polish ambassador to Israel after an extended period of time without a Polish ambassadorial presence, according to a Israeli Foreign Ministry press release.

Israel’s Ambassador to Poland Yacov Livne posted on social media that a program was presented to the Polish parliament to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, one of the most well-known acts of Jewish resistance against the Nazis during World War II.

Poland also submitted a proposal to Israel on Wednesday to resume Holocaust memorial tours to Poland for Israeli high school students. The trips were frozen by Israel’s then-Foreign Minister Yair Lapid as the result of a disagreement between the two countries when Poland attempted to regulate educational content presented to Israeli delegations. 

“The Poles wanted to mess with the content of the trips and what can or can’t be said to Israeli children visiting,” Lapid said at the time.

Poland denies any substantive role during the time of the Holocaust and considers its citizens to also be victims of Nazi aggression. In 2018, Poland criminalized “accusing the Polish state or people of involvement or responsibility for the Nazi occupation during World War II.” 

Then-Prime Minister Netanyahu attacked the legislation as an “attempt to rewrite history.”

The nonpartisan PolitiFact research group called the law “controversial” when it was announced, and published a brief explainer of the legislation.

In 2021, Poland approved other legislation to limit the ability of Jewish descendants to recover property seized by the Nazi party during its occupation of Poland. In response, Israel recalled its ambassador to Poland. 

Lapid warned at the time that the legislation would “strongly harm [Israel’s] relations with Poland.” 

While Israel returned its ambassador to Poland after the start of the Ukraine war last February, the Polish government has yet to return its ambassador to Israel. The two countries have cooperated on providing assistance to refugees of Russia’s war on Ukraine and Poland has allowed Israel to operate rescue efforts within its borders to bring Israeli citizens and Ukrainian Jews safely out of the conflict.  

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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