Israel recalled its top diplomat from Poland on Saturday after the Polish president signed a law that restricts the ability of Jews to recover property seized by Nazi German occupiers and retained by post-war communist rulers.
The law, which was passed by parliament on Wednesday, is an amendment to Poland's administrative law, which will prevent property ownership and other administrative decisions from being declared void after 30 years.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called it "a shameful decision and disgraceful contempt for the memory of the Holocaust" and said "Poland has chosen to continue harming those who have lost everything."
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said he had instructed Israel's top diplomat in Warsaw, the charges d'affaires, to return home immediately for an indefinite period. He said the new Israeli ambassador to Poland, who was scheduled to leave for Warsaw, will remain in Israel.
"Poland today approved - not for the first time - an immoral, antisemitic law," Lapid said.
The Israel Foreign Ministry also said it was recommending that the Polish ambassador, who is on vacation, not return to Israel.
The legislation has angered Israel and the United States. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on President Andrzej Duda this week to veto it, arguing that it would severely restrict the "process for Holocaust survivors and their families, as well as other Jewish and non-Jewish property owners, to obtain restitution for property wrongfully confiscated during Poland's communist era."
But Duda said he strongly objected to anyone suggesting that the law was directed specifically against Jews who survived the Holocaust, which was carried out by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland and elsewhere.
"I made a decision today on the act, which in recent months was the subject of a lively and loud debate at home and abroad," Andrzej Duda said in a statement published on Saturday. "After an in-depth analysis, I have decided to sign the amendment."
Up to now Jewish expatriots or their descendats could make a claim that a property was seized against the law and demand its return, but Polish officials argued this was causing uncertainty over property ownership.
In 2015 therefore Poland's Constitutional Tribunal ruled there should be specific deadlines after which administrative decisions over property titles could no longer be challenged. Changes to the law were adopted by the Polish parliament earlier this week.
The bill sets a 30-year limit for restitution claims.
The issue of Jewish property rights in Poland is further complicated because unlike other EU states it has not created a fund to give compensation to people whose property was seized.
Washington is one of Warsaw's most important allies, but relations between the two countries have been strained by the property issue, as well as other issues such as plans to introduce changes that the opposition says aim to silence a U.S.-owned news channel critical of the government.
Before World War Two Poland had been home to one of the world's biggest Jewish communities, but it was almost entirely wiped out by the Nazis and Jewish former property owners and their descendants have been campaigning for compensation.
The legislation was widely supported across the political spectrum in Poland.
First published: 18:36, 08.14.21