Poland, Israel improve ties as ambassador starts work

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland and Israel have taken a step toward normalizing diplomatic ties, the Polish president said Tuesday, as the Israeli ambassador officially presented his credentials in Warsaw.

President Andrzej Duda tweeted that he and Israeli President Issac Herzog have “agreed that it’s time to return to normal relations.”

He said the “first step” was taken when Israeli Ambassador Yacov Livne officially presented his credentials on Tuesday.

Israel expects Poland to appoint an ambassador too, and Duda said he hopes it would happen “soon.”

Herzog thanked Duda on Twitter for receiving Livne’s credentials, calling it an “important first step to advancing Israeli-Polish relations” and added he expects to receive formal documentation from Poland’s ambassador soon.

Livne noted on Poland’s private TVN24 that the warming of relations comes at a time of many challenges around the world, including instability in the Middle East and Russia’s war in Ukraine, which borders Poland.

“We believe (that) friendly countries such as Poland and Israel can and should work together to counter the challenges” that appear in security and economic spheres, Livne said.

“The Jewish people and the Polish people, we have a huge richness of historical ties, historical contacts, this is also something we need to work on,” he said.

One of the issues requiring to be solved urgently is the program of annual educational trips to Poland by thousands of young Israelis. Israel suspended the Holocaust study visits during the pandemic and said this year they wouldn’t be resumed because Poland’s right-wing government was trying to control the curriculum.

Poland is objecting to the presence of armed guards on such visits, saying that creates an unnecessary impression of danger. Warsaw would also like the visitors to meet with their Polish peers and jointly debate the history of both nations that spans many centuries, and to establish personal ties.

Relations between the two nations soured in recent years amid spats over Poland’s laws that were seen as whitewashing the deeds of some Poles during the Holocaust and banning claims for restitution of seized property by Holocaust victims and their relatives.

Israel recalled its ambassador in the autumn of 2020 and Poland’s ambassador to Israel was instructed to end his mission prematurely last summer.

Ties have since improved in the wake of Israel-Polish cooperation on the Ukrainian refugee crisis following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, whose late father was a Holocaust survivor, thanked Poland for its help in rescuing Jewish refugees from Ukraine.

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