Poland hopes Israel will change mind on restitution law

Poland's Deputy Foreign Minister: Israel's criticism of restitution law is inappropriate, we hope they'll change their approach.

Ben Ariel ,

Poland's Sejm (Lower house of Parliament)
Poland's Sejm (Lower house of Parliament)

Poland's Deputy Foreign Minister, Pawel Jablonski, said on Monday he hoped that Israel would change its view on a bill that could cut off World War II restitution claims, AFP reports.

The bill, which passed the lower house of parliament last week, is intended to provide greater legal certainty for current owners of pre-war properties against historical claims dating back to the Nazi German occupation.

Critics say it could effectively block descendants of Jewish families from claiming properties left empty during the Holocaust and Israel has condemned the legislation as "immoral".

Jablonski said in a televised briefing on Monday that the Israeli criticism was of the legislation "inappropriate" and "we hope that the approach of the Israeli side will change".

He added that critics in Israel "refer to the issue of the Holocaust, which this law does not address in any way. This demonstrates, I have the impression, a lack of knowledge of the facts".

"This law is not aimed against anybody," said Jablonski, adding that "the political debate in Israel is dominated by views that are either critical of Poland or are simply anti-Polish".

He spoke after Israel's chargee d'affaires in Warsaw, Tal Ben-Ari Yaalon, was summoned to the Polish foreign ministry to be briefed on the new law.

On Sunday, the Israeli Foreign Ministry summoned Poland’s ambassador to Israel after senior Polish leaders excoriated Israel’s foreign minister for criticizing legislation barring restitution for Holocaust-era theft of Jewish property.

Marek Magierowski, the Polish ambassador to Israel, was called in for a reprimand by the Israeli Foreign Ministry after Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki doubled down on support for the controversial restitution law.

Morawiecki said the law would ensure “Poland does not pay for Nazi crimes,” and lambasted Foreign Minister Yair Lapid for his sharp criticism last week of the restitution law.

“These remarks indicate ignorance and a fundamental lack of understanding of the facts and of Polish law,” he said. “Poland is in no way responsible for the Holocaust, an atrocity committed by the German occupier also on Polish citizens of Jewish descent. Lapid’s statement should be unequivocally condemned.”

Lapid had condemned the Polish Parliament’s decision in a sharp-worded attack.

“Poland’s draft law will in effect prevent the restitution of Jewish property or the provision of compensation to Holocaust survivors and their heirs,” Lapid said last week. “This is a horrific injustice and disgrace … an incomprehensible action … a disgrace that will not erase the horrors or the memory of the Holocaust.”