Relations with Poland back to normal - Israeli amb

Polish-Israeli relations are back to normal, Israeli Ambassador to Poland Anna Azari told PAP on Tuesday at a gala marking the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the Israeli embassy in Poland.

Speaking at the gala in Warsaw's Hotel Bristol - where on the 2nd floor, Poland's first post-war Israeli Ambassador Israel Barzilaj lived at the outset of his tenure - Azari observed that much had changed over the past 70 years, and mentioned that 2018 was a special year for Israel and Poland as it marked the former's 70th and the latter's 100th independence anniversary.

Azari voiced contentment over the normalisation of bilateral ties, and recalled that Poland was one of the first countries to recognise Israel's statehood in 1948.

In a letter to the gala's participants, Polish President Andrzej Duda mentioned that both countries' independence anniversaries are taking place this year, and emphasised the strong ties between Poland and Israel.

Earlier on Twitter, Polish Ambassador to Israel Marek Magierowki informed that the Israeli Yad Vashem Institute had awarded posthumous Righteous Among the Nations titles to four Poles who aided Jews during World War Two.

Opened on September 29 1948, the Israeli embassy in Warsaw was the country's first foreign embassy after its independence declaration 5 months earlier. Although Poland was among the first countries to recognize the Israeli state in 1948, in 1967 it broke off diplomatic relations with the country under Soviet pressure, and diplomatic ties were not resumed until February 1990.

Bilateral ties again became strained earlier this year in the wake of the Polish parliament's passage of a controversial anti-defamation act which penalised suggestions of Polish complicity in the Holocaust. Passed in response to media claims that Poles aided the Germans in the extermination of Jews during World War Two and the repeated use of the phrase "Polish death camps" to describe Nazi concentration camps in German-occupied Poland, the law which was passed in January introduced a 3-year prison term for claims that Poles were complicit in Nazi crimes.

The act evoked hefty protests worldwide, especially in Israel and the US, which claimed the regulations hindered free debate about the Holocaust. Later, the Polish Sejm passed amendments to the act by repealing its Article 55a which introduced the prison penalty.

On June 27 Polish and Israeli PMs Mateusz Morawiecki and Benjamin Netanyahu, respectively, signed a joint declaration in which they expressed their disagreement to ascribing complicity in Nazi atrocities to Poland or the Polish people. They also condemned all forms of anti-Semitism and anti-Polishness, and all nationality-based stereotypes.