Israeli youth trips with armed guard not possible Polish MFA says

Lukasz Jasina made the announcement in Tirana on Wednesday in reaction to the news that the Israeli government had decided to cancel all Israeli student trips to Poland. Marcin Obara/PAP

Israeli agents will not be allowed to carry firearms while protecting Jewish youth trips to Poland, the spokesperson to the Polish foreign ministry has said.

Lukasz Jasina made the announcement in Tirana on Wednesday in reaction to the news that the Israeli government had decided to cancel all Israeli student trips to Poland due to a dispute between Jerusalem and Warsaw over whether the security officers accompanying the delegations could carry weapons.

Israeli media wrote that officers of Shin Bet, the Israeli equivalent of Poland's Internal Security Agency, who always accompany Israeli school trips, had previously been allowed to be armed while in Poland.

But this year, Jasina said, "a return to the previous rules, including the participation of armed Israeli agents, was not possible."

"Poland is, of course, open to settling this matter, for these trips and for visits to continue, but we cannot afford situations in which Poland may appear as a dangerous state, against whose citizens it is necessary to protect Israeli youth," Jasina said.

"Also, the situation in which the security services of another country are carrying weapons on the territory of our country is no longer tolerable," he added.

Poland hopes, the spokesperson continued, that the matter will be quickly resolved, and that "the issue of commemorating the Holocaust will bring Poles and Jews closer, and not divide them."

"We hope that resolving a situation which creates a sense of danger will help young Israelis who come to Poland see that we are a normal country and not only a place associated with the death of their grandparents, through no fault of the Polish state and the Polish nation," Jasina said.

Later on Wednesday, a deputy foreign minister, Pawel Jablonski, posted a lengthy entry on Twitter in which he wrote that "the current formula of organised trips of Israeli youth to Poland requires changes due to systematic problems leading to the strengthening of false stereotypes, which negatively impacts Polish-Israeli relations."

He went on to say: "Based on previous experience, we conclude that Israeli youth often return from these trips with negative feelings towards today's Poland and Poles; they perceive our country only through the prism of Nazi German concentration camps; they do not get acquainted with the entirety of over a 1,000 years of Polish-Jewish relations; they are noticeably isolated from contacts with Polish peers."

Jablonski added that Poland's intention is not to block the possibility of Israeli students' trips to the country but to give these visits a different formula that will contribute to the improvement of Polish-Israeli relations.

He said it was important that Israeli youth deepen their knowledge about the Holocaust and other crimes of the Second World War, and that they learn about the rich history of Polish-Jewish relations, and that young people from Poland and Israel integrate.

Jablonski added that work is currently underway on a new agreement between Poland and Israel regarding the matter and that Poland wishes to "start negotiations and conclude an agreement satisfying both parties as soon as possible."