Poland says US secretary of state supports its stance in spat with Israel
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Poland says US secretary of state supports its stance in spat with Israel

Warsaw thanks Pompeo after envoy calls on acting FM Katz to apologize for saying ‘Poles ‘suckle anti-Semitism with their mothers’ milk’

Polish Foreign Affairs Minister Jacek Czaputowicz,right, and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shake hands at a news conference at Lazienki Palace, Warsaw, Poland, February 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
Polish Foreign Affairs Minister Jacek Czaputowicz,right, and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shake hands at a news conference at Lazienki Palace, Warsaw, Poland, February 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke on the phone Thursday with his Polish counterpart, Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz, and expressed “full support” for the Poles in their recent diplomatic falling out with Israel, the Polish foreign ministry said.

The conversation came a day after Washington’s ambassador to Poland said that Acting Foreign Minister Israel Katz should apologize for his comment Monday that Poles “suckle anti-Semitism with their mothers’ milk.”

“I just felt that two strong allies like Israel and Poland, of course they are strong allies of the United States, shouldn’t be using that kind of rhetoric,” the US envoy, Georgette Mosbacher, had told reporters Wednesday, according to the Reuters news agency. “We are too important to each other not to work these things out.”

During Thursday’s conversation between Pompeo and Czaputowicz, the latter thanked his American colleague for “Mosbacher’s reaction to the objectionable words of the Israeli Foreign Minister,” a statement from the foreign ministry in Warsaw said.

Israel Katz attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on February 17, 2019. (Sebastian Scheiner/Pool/AFP)

“The US secretary of state expressed his full support for the negative position of Poland in relation to unfriendly statements made by the Israeli side,” the statement added.

There was no immediate comment from the US State Department on the content of the call.

In the wake of Katz’s comments, Poland pulled out of a summit of Central European countries that had been scheduled to take place in Jerusalem on Tuesday, leading to the cancellation of the event.

A day before she demanded an apology, Mosbacher tweeted that “there is no place for such offensive comments as yesterday’s statement by Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz.”

Katz’s comments came with tensions between Warsaw and Jerusalem already high due to comments by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Poles’ collaboration with the Nazis that his office said were misquoted by Israeli media.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said that Netanyahu himself called Katz’s remark “an unfortunate statement,” when the two met Tuesday in Jerusalem, Babis recalled later in an interview with a leading Czech television channel.

Prime Minister of Poland Mateusz Morawiecki, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a conference on Peace and Security in the Middle East in Warsaw, Poland, February 14, 2019. (AP/Michael Sohn)

“Both of us prime ministers have various ministers serving in our governments, and the only thing Prime Minister Netanyahu said to me was that he also considered Katz’s words an unfortunate statement,” Babis told the channel’s Middle East correspondent David Borek.

On Thursday night, Katz himself remained unapologetic, reiterating that “many Poles” cooperated with the Nazis in World War II.

Mosbacher, the US envoy to Poland, has herself previously come under fire from the Polish government over comments on the country’s Holocaust history, saying during a nomination hearing last year that Polish legislation outlawing the blaming of Nazi crimes against Jews during World War II on Poland was responsible for rising anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe.

Israeli officials initially railed against the Polish law as a distortion of history. The measure led to a major diplomatic rift when the Polish parliament first green lighted the legislation in January.

But the dispute over the law was resolved last year when Poland softened the legislation, and Netanyahu and his Polish counterpart agreed on a joint declaration stressing the involvement of the Polish resistance in helping Jews.

It was seen as a diplomatic coup for Poland but Netanyahu faced criticism from historians in Israel, including at Yad Vashem, for agreeing to a statement that they said distorted history.

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