The two countries may prevent the Polish legislation requiring compensation in World War II from convening each other’s envoys.
Israel has summoned the Polish ambassador and expressed “deep disappointment” over a bill in Poland. Critics said the bill would make it more difficult for Jews to reclaim their lost property in World War II. This move triggered a reciprocal reaction in Warsaw.
The lower house of the Polish parliament passed a draft bill on Thursday imposing a statute of limitations for claims for the return of property, which caused an angry response from Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, calling it a “disgrace”.
The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement on Sunday that the legislation may affect up to 90% of Holocaust survivors and their descendants’ requests for property restitution.
The statement said: “This is not a historical debate about responsibility for the Holocaust, but Poland’s moral debt to citizens whose property was plundered during the Holocaust and under the communist regime.”
Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Pavel Jablonski said on Sunday that the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned an Israeli charge d’affaires in Warsaw on Monday.
Jablonski said Warsaw hopes to be straightforward in terms of legislation.
The Polish diplomat told the national television station TVP that Israel’s Chargé d’affaires Tarben Ariaron “has been summoned…we will explain the truth to her in a decisive and factual manner.”
“We think that unfortunately, what we are dealing with here is a situation that certain Israeli politicians use for internal political purposes,” he added.
The Israeli Embassy in Warsaw said on Twitter on Thursday that “this unethical law will seriously affect the relationship between our two countries.”
The Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Friday that the introduction of a time limit would “eliminate large-scale fraud and irregularities.”
It added: “Regardless of the nationality or origin of the plaintiff, the new regulations will not restrict the possibility of filing a civil lawsuit for damages in any way.”
Almost all Polish Jews, about 3 million people, were wiped out in the Holocaust. Since the fall of communism in 1989, former Jewish property owners and their descendants have been fighting for compensation from Poland. The Jewish property seized by the Nazis was kept in the custody of the communist rulers after the war.
This legislation will implement the 2015 Constitutional Court’s ruling that there should be a deadline after which wrong administrative decisions can no longer be challenged. The law stipulates that this period is 30 years.
The legacy of World War II and related Polish legislation have previously strained relations between Poland and Israel.
During the war, thousands of Poles risked their lives to protect their Jewish neighbors. But research published since 1989 shows that thousands more killed Jews or condemned those who hid them before the German occupiers.
In 2018, the government was forced to make concessions and cancel parts of the Holocaust Act, which sentenced those who implied that the country was involved in Nazi crimes to prison, which angered the United States and Israel.