Polish deputy FM: Israel consulted with us on overhauling judiciary

Pawel Jablonski says Poland, which has seen democratic backsliding since government curbed courts’ independence, ‘shared our experiences in this regard’

Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski is interviewed by Polish radio on March 27, 2023. (Twitter screenshot, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski is interviewed by Polish radio on March 27, 2023. (Twitter screenshot, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Poland’s deputy foreign minister on Monday said Israel consulted with his country about overhauling the judicial system, following past Polish moves to curb the judiciary’s authority.

“Of course, we are talking with Israel, and to some extent we shared our experiences in this regard,” Pawel Jablonski told a Polish radio station. “I’m telling the honest truth. Israel was interested in what was happening in Poland. We were interested in what was happening in Israel.”

Jablonski said any change to the courts is a domestic matter, noting the Knesset’s advancement of the judicial bills and resulting mass protests against the proposals.

“This is a democracy — just like any democracy, with various problems — but I am convinced that it will manage,” he said in reference to Israel.

His remarks came a day after a constitutional scholar from Poland, which has undergone democratic backsliding in recent years, warned that Israel was facing the same dangers from the judicial overhaul being advanced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

Prof. Tomasz Tadeusz Koncewicz, director of the Department of European and Comparative Law at the University of Gdansk in Poland, said there has been a process of “constitutional capture” in his country since the ruling Law and Justice party took power in 2015.

“It all started with the Polish constitutional court. And this is a major takeaway lesson for Israel,” he told a conference of the Israel Democracy Institute on Sunday.

In Poland, Koncewicz said, the ruling Law and Justice party “ripped out” the heart of the constitutional court by appointing political allies of the party to the bench, so that the court now sees itself as “as ally of parliament” and “an enabler of political power” instead of an institution designed to check legislative power.

“Once you don’t have a Supreme Court that is independent of the executive – this is where the constitutional capture that has happened in Poland kicks in,” he said.

Polish President Andrzej Duda, right, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speak after at a joint news conference with Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, left, at the headquarters of Poland’s Power Grid in Konstancin-Jeziorna, Poland, June 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Michal Dyjuk)

In the Monday radio interview, Jablonski also addressed bilateral ties between the countries, after they agreed last week on resuming Israeli youth Holocaust trips to Poland in a bid to move past nearly two-years of friction.

As part of the deal, Poland agreed to restore its ambassador to Israel for the first time since July 2021, when Israel objected to Poland’s approval of a law effectively cutting off any future restitution to the heirs of property seized by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

Jablonski said he didn’t know when the new envoy would be appointed.

“We want to have the best possible relations with Israel,” he said.

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