JERUSALEM, Israel – Poland has canceled its involvement in an important conference in Jerusalem this week after acting Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz quoted former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir in saying that the "Poles suckled anti-Semitism from their mothers' milk."
The Visegrad Group conference, also known as the V4 summit, was supposed to feature leaders from Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary. It is set to take place in Jerusalem for the first time this week (Feb. 18-19), but this time, without Poland.
Poland's withdrawal from the conference is a response to Katz's opinion about the Poles' role in the Holocaust.
Katz made the comments when he appeared on Israel's i24NEWS channel Sunday to discuss last week's Warsaw conference, which was aimed at uniting world powers against Iranian aggression in the Middle East. Katz touched on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's previous controversial statements during the summit which blamed "the Poles" for collaborating with the Nazi regime.
Netanyahu was originally misquoted as saying "the Polish nation" is guilty of cooperating with Nazis, which put a strain on Israel and Poland's relationship. Poland's Prime Minister considered canceling his attendance at the V4 summit last week until Netanyahu's office corrected the quote and cooled the tension between the two countries.
Katz doubled down on Netanyahu's comments during his interview Sunday night and said, "Poles suckled anti-Semitism from their mothers' milk."
#IsraElections2019 | 'No one will tell us how to express ourselves, or how to remember our fallen,' Acting FM @Israel_katz tells @NuritBen and @BismuthBoaz following Poland-Israel Holocaust row: pic.twitter.com/8XsQnIEvxL
— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) February 17, 2019
Michal Dworczyk, the head of Poland's prime minister's office, told state radio Monday that Katz's comments were "disgraceful."
He later told Army Radio on Monday that he was in favor of maintaining relations but repeated his earlier statements.
"Historical truth cannot be changed. Many Poles collaborated with the Nazis and took part in the destruction of the Jews during the Holocaust. ... Anti-Semitism was innate among the Poles before the Holocaust, during it and after it, too," he said.
Poland's absence will leave a significant mark on the conference this week.
The V4 Summit is important to Israel because Netanyahu is trying to build 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.
The EU condemns Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria and has said Israel uses excessive force against Palestinians in Gaza.