May 21, 2006

Israel protests Poland’s new coalition

Source:

Israel has expressed its concern to the Polish government over the inclusion of a far-right political party with anti-Semitic ideology in the government coalition, but stopped short of announcing an official boycott of the party’s leader who has been appointed the Polish education minister, the Foreign Ministry announced Friday.

Israeli Ambassador to Poland David Peleg conveyed Israel’s dismay over the inclusion of the marginal ultra-nationalist League of Polish Families Party in the Polish government in a meeting with Polish President Lech Kaczynski, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said.

The unusual Israeli move came after the leader of the staunchly Catholic party, Roman Giertych, who is the grandson of an infamous Polish anti-Semite, was appointed education minister and deputy prime minister in Poland’s new coalition government.

Kaczynski assured the Israeli ambassador during their meeting that he and his dominant center-right Law and Justice Party which leads the country would ensure that anti-Semitism has ”no chance” in Poland.

The appointment of the 35-year-old extremist party leader, whose party won only 8 percent of the vote in last year’s Polish election, to such a prestigious government position has caused dismay among Israeli and Jewish officials.

The concern is compounded by the fact that the Polish Education Ministry is charged with joint youth programs between Israeli and Poles, interactions which are considered to be a cornerstone of future relations between the two countries.

Giertych’s grandfather was a staunch advocate of anti-Jewish boycotts, with his party rooted in a nationalist movement that existed between the two world wars which succeeded in both segregating and limiting the number of Jews at Polish Universities.

The party’s youth wing has in the past made Nazi salutes, and chanted Nazi slogans.

The Israeli ambassador expressed the dangers involved in bringing anti-Semitic movements into the government during additional meetings with Polish Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz and Polish Foreign Minister Anna Fotyga, the ministry said in a statement.

A basic elementary option Israel has in dealing with an anti-Semite is to boycott him, an Israeli official said.

The Polish government’s decision to make a union with two of Poland’s small populist parties, including the League of Polish Families, instead of joining forces with a competing center-right party has been criticized in both Poland and Europe.

The discord over the move follows a decade of burgeoning Israeli-Polish relations, with governmental relations between the two countries during this period considered to be among the best in Europe.