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January 26, 1997 No 4 (431)

Voice - Society


A Cool Reception

Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, the first Polish prime minister to visit Israel, was greeted by so much criticism there that he may be the last, too.

Polish Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz met with strong criticism on his first visit to Israel after his two predecessors had planned visits but canceled them.

First to launch an attack was Knesset Speaker Dan Tichon. Speaking in Hebrew to welcome Cimoszewicz, Tichon said that it was on Polish territory that the "final liquidation of the Jewish problem" was carried out by the Nazis and the present holy places of the Jews, such as Auschwitz concentration camp, are being desecrated.

Tichon also criticized a government draft of the law regulating the return of former Jewish property. "This law is hardly satisfactory and should be reconsidered," he said. The Polish prime minister reacted sharply. "Just as the Knesset is the sole sovereign body authorized to pass laws in Israel, so the sole body authorized to approve laws in Poland is the Polish parliament," said Cimoszewicz. Commenting on the visit, however, he told journalists that most Israeli politicians expressed friendly feelings. "Only the statement by the Knesset speaker contrasted with this generally good style," said the prime minister.

During the visit, Cimoszewicz was also criticized by Jews of Polish origin. According to them, the government draft is only a dodge, as the authorities do not expect to give anything back anyway. At a meeting with the prime minister, the mainly elderly participants said that the legal formula transferring the property of the old Jewish communities to present-day ones is a farce, because only nine such communities exist today and they are generally completely invisible. "Why should only this handful have a right to the property, and not the thousands of Jews who lost their property in Poland?" asked one of the participants. Cimoszewicz tried to explain that the draft anticipates the Jewish diaspora's participation in the administration of the returned property, but he could not make himself heard.

The property issue dominated Cimoszewicz's visit to Israel. The agreements which he signed on youth exchange, for instance, passed without comment. However, the Polish leader and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu did not arrive at an agreement on the planned purchase of Israeli missiles for the Polish Huzar helicopter.

Kuba Spiewak

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