JERUSALEM, Israel – Israel and Poland averted a diplomatic crisis Friday morning after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clarified controversial comments he made over Poland's role in the Holocaust during a Middle East security summit in Warsaw.
Israel's Ambassador to Poland Anna Azari sent a letter Friday morning to the Polish Prime Minister's Office in an effort to explain Netanyahu's statements. The letter says "Prime Minister Netanyahu did not say that the Polish 'nation' committed crimes against the Jews, but that 'Poles' cooperated with the Nazis."
The clarification follows a media storm that began Thursday morning when Netanyahu appeared to challenge a Polish law passed last years that bans people from saying Poland as a state and nation cooperated with the Nazis to commit genocide against European Jews during the Holocaust. The law triggered a diplomatic crisis between the Jewish State and Poland, with many Israeli leaders believing Poland was adopting a revisionist history of the genocide.
"The Poles collaborated with the Nazis and I don't know anyone who was ever sued for such a statement," Netanyahu said during the conference according to the Jerusalem Post. "Here I am saying Poles cooperated with the Nazis. I know the history and I don't whitewash it. I bring it up."
The Prime Minister's office told CBN News, "The Prime Minister's comments concerning Poland were originally misquoted by the Jerusalem Post, which quickly issued a correction clarifying that an error had been made in the editing of the article."
Initially, the Jerusalem Post quoted Netanyahu as saying the "Polish nation" had collaborated with the Nazis when in reality, the prime minister said "Poles." This error made it seem like he was referring to Poland as a state when he was really referring to specific individuals.
Following Netanyahu's initial comments, Polish President Andrzej Duda threatened to cancel his country's participation in the Visegrad Group conference set to be hosted by Israel in Jerusalem for the first time on Feb. 18-19. Duda also wrote on Twitter that "Israel is not a good place to meet" and suggested hosting the conference elsewhere.
The Jerusalem Post reported the Polish government has received the clarification and will attend the Visegrad Group conference in Jerusalem as planned.
During the conference, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia met for the purpose of advancing military, economic, cultural and energy cooperation.
Netanyahu is in the process of building a strategic alliance with Poland and other countries in an effort to create a bloc of support in the European Union against the EU's policies towards the Jewish state.
Netanyahu has criticized the EU for its policies related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The EU condemns Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria and has said Israel uses excessive force against Palestinians in Gaza.
The Visegrad Group conference in Jerusalem will most likely focus on how Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia can fight the EU's policies towards Israel.