Visegrad leaders meet Netanyahu in Israel without Poland | News | DW | 19.02.2019
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Visegrad leaders meet Netanyahu in Israel without Poland

The leaders of three Central European countries were supposed to have met Israel's prime minister in a joint meeting. That summit collapsed after Poland withdrew in response to a "racist" remark by an Israeli official.

The leaders of Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia met separately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, a day after Poland pulled of a joint summit in response to an anti-Semitism row with the Israeli government.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said he hoped that Poland and Israel could resolve their differences. "It's always better together with them than without them," he said, referring to Poland.

Netanyahu did not speak about the rift with Warsaw in his remarks to the press.

Poland demands apology

In Warsaw, Poland's deputy foreign minister demanded Israel apologize for comments by acting Foreign Minister Israel Katz.

Watch video 04:45

Anti-Semitism on the rise in Poland

Katz told Israeli television over the weekend that Poles "suckled anti-Semitism with their mothers' milk," a comment that was quoting former Israeli PM Yitzhak Shamir.

In response, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki canceled Poland's participation in the joint summit of the four Central European countries, known collectively as the Visegrad group, and Israel.

The remaining three Visgrad countries then agreed to drop the meeting in favor of one-to-one meetings with Israel instead.

Holocaust dispute

Katz's comment came amid Polish anger toward Netanyahu, who days earlier said that "Poles cooperated with the Nazis" during the Holocaust. Netanyahu said he had been misquoted, but Poland said the claim was insufficient.

Watch video 03:31

Could new Polish law criminalize discussion of Holocaust?

Poland's right-wing government denies the country collaborated with Nazi Germany. Amid strong criticism from Israel, Warsaw passed a controversial law last year that prohibits anyone from linking the Polish nation or Polish people as a whole to the Holocaust.

Netanyahu could find it difficult to issue an apology for Katz's remark ahead of a crucial election on April 9.

Opponents have criticized the four-time prime minister for cozying up to Central European governments with a record of speaking about the Holocaust in their country's favor.

amp/msh (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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