Israel and Poland to open ‘immediate dialogue’ over Polish death camps legislation

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki at the European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Dec. 14, 2017. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki at the European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Dec. 14, 2017. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israel and Poland will open an “immediate dialogue” over legislation that would criminalize the use of the term “Polish death camps.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Polish counterpart, Mateusz Morawiecki, spoke on Sunday evening by phone and “agreed that teams from the two countries would open an immediate dialogue in order to try to reach understandings regarding the legislation,” Netanyahu’s office said in a statement.

The Israeli team will be headed by Foreign Ministry Director General Yuval Rotem, according to Haaretz.

Hours after the Prime Minister’s Office released its statement, Polish government spokeswoman Joanna Kopcińska said in a tweet that it “was agreed that there will be a dialogue between the teams of both countries. However the conversation will not concern sovereign decisions of the Polish parliament.”

The legislation passed on Friday by the Polish parliament’s lower house, or Sejm, now will be taken up by the Senate. It must also be approved by the president. It is designed to make it clear that Nazi Germany is responsible for the crimes against humanity that took place in the camps.

On Sunday, Israel’s Foreign Ministry summoned Poland’s deputy ambassador for a “clarification discussion” about the Polish legislation. Ministry officials expressed Israel’s opposition to the bill at the meeting.

Netanyahu on Sunday said that Israel’s ambassador in Warsaw spoke with the Polish prime minister about the legislation on Saturday night during a memorial ceremony at Auschwitz.

Also Sunday, Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, said in a statement that he would carefully review the legislation.

“Everyone whose personal memory or historical research speaks the truth about the crimes and shameful behavior that occurred in the past with the participation of Poles has full right to this truth,” he said.

Several Israeli lawmakers and Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial came out against the legislation.

The legislation calls for prison sentences of up to three years. It contains a provision excluding scholarly or academic works.

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