Foreign Ministry officials: Lapid's approach to Poland is misguided

Poland is only doing what the rest of Europe has already done, albeit with more fanfare, say Israeli diplomats who now fear reprisals from Polish government.

Y Rabinovitz ,

Yair Lapid
Yair Lapid

Senior officials in the Foreign Ministry have expressed their frustration with the approach being taken by current Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) with regard to Poland, Israel Hayom reports on Monday, following days of back-and-forth criticism between Lapid (and other government officials) and senior Polish politicians.

According to Lapid, Polish-Israeli diplomatic relations have been on a downward trend since 2018, when “Poland began instituting laws that insult the memory of the Holocaust and harm the Jewish People.” Israeli civil servants, however, point out that Poland is merely doing what many other European countries are also doing, albeit with more fanfare than is probably advisable, and that Lapid’s “overreaction” only makes the situation worse.

Today’s Poland is considered one of the strongest nations in the European Union. On Sunday, its Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, threatened that, “If the Israeli government continues to attack Poland in this manner, it will have a very negative impact on our relations – both bilateral and in international forums,” and it is this that concerns Israeli Foreign Ministry experts.

Their assessment is that Morawiecki now intends to promote anti-Israeli decisions and statements both within the European Union and in additional venues, as a form of revenge for the incendiary statements made by Lapid. They note that the European Union – which has in the past criticized certain laws passed by Poland on related issues – has this time failed to respond to the storm surrounding the latest restitution law.

Even the United States, which voiced cautious criticism last week before the law was approved by Poland’s President, Andrzej Duda, has yet to respond to the latest developments, and Lapid was clearly banking on American support for his stance as was evident from several statements he made.

In the view of those Ministry staff who spoke with Israel Hayom, Lapid would have done far better to take a more measured approach toward the Warsaw government. They also note that the law Poland has just ratified brings it into line with virtually every other European country (with the exception of Germany, which is doubtless a “special case”).

“The only difference is that Poland took a very public step, while other countries did the same thing quietly,” said one diplomat who is involved in the matter.

Over the past few months, several discussions have been held within the Foreign Ministry on Israel’s best-advised response to Poland’s new legislation. On Sunday, Lapid stressed that, “The days when Poland could harm Jews without us responding are over and will not return. Today, we Jews have a strong and proud state and we are not afraid of anti-Semitic threats.”

A request of Lapid’s bureau for a response to the criticism of his own Ministry staff has gone unanswered, Israel Hayom said.