Israel-Poland Communique Sends Wrong Message

Israeli Minister of International Relations Yuval Steinitz (R) listens to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on the plane to an official state visit to Poland on Wednesday. (Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash 90)
Israeli Minister of International Relations Yuval Steinitz (R) listens to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on the plane to an official state visit to Poland on Wednesday. (Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash 90)

Netanyahu to Dedicate New Exhibition at Auschwitz

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s trip to Poland began with a diplomatic misstep on Wednesday after the text of a joint communique affirming the two-state solution and condemning unilateral actions by both Israel and the Palestinians had to be recalled.

Netanyahu reportedly objected to the language of the communique, in particular the part which said that unilateral steps by both sides were obstacles to a peace agreement. The prime minister felt that the implication that he was repudiating his policy of continuing construction in Yehudah and Shomron could not be allowed to stand.

“Netanyahu did not go over the text of the statement,” an aide told Army Radio. “It was written by junior-level officials in the National Security Council.”

“Unilateral steps by either party are counterproductive to achieving a sustainable lasting peace,” the joint statement declares. “We welcome the U.S. government’s efforts in this regard, particularly those of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.”

Aides of the prime minister also denied that Netanyahu had been slated to sign the declaration with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

The backdown from the joint statement elicited a fresh accusation of duplicity from the opposition.

“Netanyahu’s disavowal of the content of the joint statement with the Polish prime minister only serves to expose the true face of the prime minister who continues to mislead the public and prove once again that he has no intention of making peace,” Meretz chief Zehava Gal-On said.

The two-day visit to Poland led off with a private meeting in Warsaw between the Israeli and Polish prime ministers.

Poland has maintained friendly relations with Israel in recent years. In November, Poland was in the minority of 41 U.N. member states that abstained from the General Assembly vote to upgrade the Palestinian status to that of U.N. non-member state.

In the less problematic parts of the joint statement, the two countries agreed that Iran poses the greatest threat to peace in the Mideast, and that a credible military threat is needed to deter its nuclear program. There was also agreement on the need to restore stability in Syria and to combat anti-Semitism.

The Israeli delegation includes five ministers — Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, Education Minister Shai Piron, Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat, Science, Technology and Space Minister Yaakov Perry and Senior Citizens Minister Uri Orbach.

On Thursday, Netanyahu will inaugurate a new permanent exhibition on the Holocaust, in Block 27 at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. It will seek to fill in gaps in the account of the Holocaust presented at the site where over a million Jews were systematically murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators.

The initial exhibition was established under communist rule in the 1960s, alongside several national exhibitions in the former prison blocks.

The new exhibit in Block 27 will, for the first time at the site, present Auschwitz in the larger context of the Nazis’ systematic attempt to exterminate Europe’s Jews, according to the Associated Press.

The exhibit features a 360-degree montage of the vibrant prewar Jewish life, recreated drawings of some of the 1.5 million Jewish children murdered in the Holocaust, recorded survivor testimonies and massive volumes of books listing the names of some 4.2 million of the 6 million Jewish victims that Yad Vashem has painstakingly managed to recover.

The exhibition was curated by Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev, and its International Advisory Committee was headed by Elie Wiesel.