Israel, Poland summon envoys as Holocaust restitution bill spat escalates

Foreign Ministry warns Polish ambassador advancing legislation would 'affect relations between the countries'; Warsaw summons Israeli charge d'affaires in tit-for-tat move

Ynet, News agencies|
The Foreign Ministry on Sunday summoned Poland's ambassador to Israel to express its "great disappointment" with a new bill that would limit World War II property restitution claims, which prompted Warsaw to call up the Israeli envoy in the country as well.
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  • "This will affect the relations between the countries, but it is not too late to return to a dialogue on the matter of property restitution," the ministry's political director Alon Bar relayed to the Polish envoy, Marek Magierowski.
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    יאיר לפיד מטאוש מורבייצקי
    יאיר לפיד מטאוש מורבייצקי
    Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid
    (Photo: Kobi Koankes, AP)
    Bar noted it was not a dispute over liability for the Holocaust, which remains a contentious issue between the two nations, but "Poland's moral duty to its citizens and the property taken from them during the Holocaust and under the communist regime."
    In response, Poland summoned Israel's envoy after the Jewish state's criticism of the law.
    Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski said Warsaw would like to set the record straight about the legislation passed in parliament on Thursday.
    Tal Ben-Ari Yaalon, the charge d'affaires, "has been summoned ... and we will explain to her in a decisive and factual way what it's about", Jablonski told state television TVP about the meeting due on Monday.
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    מארק מגירובסקי שגריר פולין בישראל
    מארק מגירובסקי שגריר פולין בישראל
    Polish envoy to Israel Marek Magierowski
    (Photo: Moti Kimchi)
    "We believe that unfortunately what we're dealing with here is a situation that certain Israeli politicians are exploiting for internal political purposes," he added.
    The Israeli embassy in Warsaw tweeted on Thursday that "this immoral law will seriously impact relations between our countries".
    It "will in effect prevent the restitution of Jewish property or compensation requests from Holocaust survivors and their descendants as well as the Jewish community that called Poland home for centuries. It's mind-boggling," the embassy said.
    The bill's authors argue it is needed to bring the law into line with a 2015 Constitutional Court ruling, which found that there must be a deadline after which administrative decisions can no longer be contested.
    The legislation sets the cut-off date at 10 to 30 years, depending on the case.
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    Holocaust survivors at the entrance to the Auschwitz concentration camp in 2015
    Holocaust survivors at the entrance to the Auschwitz concentration camp in 2015
    Holocaust survivors at the entrance to the Auschwitz concentration camp in 2015
    (Photo: AFP)
    Poland's foreign ministry said Friday the introduction of time limits would "lead to the elimination of fraud and irregularities, which occurred on a large scale".
    "The new regulations do not in any way restrict the possibility of bringing civil suits to seek damages, irrespective of the plaintiff's nationality or origin," it added.
    "Poland is by no means responsible for the Holocaust, an atrocity committed by the German occupant also on Polish citizens of Jewish origin."
    Six million Poles, half of them Jewish, were killed during Nazi Germany's 1939-45 occupation of Poland during World War II.
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