Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin repeatedly offered Polish President Andrzej Duda an opportunity to speak in Yerushalyim if he would attend the World Holocaust Forum, but was turned down, according to media reports on Wednesday night.
Duda said he would not go to the event, to protest over the fact that countries whose governments collaborated with the Nazis were asked to speak at Yad Vashem, but Poland was not. In particular, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inclusion on the speaker list angered Warsaw, which has been having a protracted debate with him over which country deserves the blame for starting World War II.
President’s Residence director-general Harel Tubi revealed on Wednesday that Dudi turned down Rivlin’s offer to “create some kind of platform [to speak] for the Polish president during his visit to Israel. Unfortunately, it didn’t succeed.”
He didn’t say that Duda would be allowed to speak at Yad Vashem along with Putin and others, however, according to the reports.
“There is an argument here about the historic narrative, but we think that the presence of the Polish president is important, as the country on whose land these horrors took place,” Tubi said.
During his welcoming remarks to world leaders at the President’s Residence on Wednesday night, Rivlin alluded to the Polish-Russian row:
“Tomorrow, we will gather at Yad Vashem, to remember and to promise, ‘Never again.’ Yad Vashem is a leading center for Holocaust research and education, guided by historians. Historical research should be left to historians. The role of political leaders, of all of us, is to shape the future. Leave history for the historians.”
Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev said earlier this month that the forum was not intended for discussion of the details of World War II and who is to blame, it is about remembering the Shoah and combating antisemitism. He implored Duda to “stand shoulder and shoulder with other world leaders against antisemitism.”
Rivlin is scheduled to attend the International Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at Auschwitz on January 27, and is supposed to meet with Duda, Tubi said.
Meanwhile, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda announced on Tuesday that he would not attend the forum in Yerushalayim, but would send the parliament speaker to represent him.
Nauseda gave no reason for the decision to cancel, but an official who spoke with The Times of Israel said it was because Putin was being allowed to speak but not Duda.