Home World News Israeli premier criticizes Poland over property restitution law

Israeli premier criticizes Poland over property restitution law

Israel's new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett slammed a new Polish law that has been criticized for preventing the return of property to Holocaust victims.

Bennett called the amendment a “shameful decision” that Israel could not remain indifferent toward, in a statement published on Saturday evening.

“Israel views with utmost gravity approval of the law that prevents Jews from receiving compensation for property that was stolen from them during the Holocaust, and regrets the fact that Poland has chosen to continue harming those who have lost everything,” he said.

On Saturday, Polish President Andrzej Duda signed into law new rules that affect property restitution claims, defying Israeli criticism that the move could prevent the families of Holocaust victims from regaining property stolen during World War II.

The law states that administrative decisions can no longer be challenged in court after the expiration of a 30-year period, among other things.

It will come into effect in two weeks.

In an immediate response, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid recalled his country’s envoy to Warsaw for open-ended consultations on Saturday. “Poland has today – not for the first time – passed an anti-Semitic and unethical law,” Lapid said.

He said the Foreign Ministry would also recommend that the Polish ambassador to Israel remain on his current home leave.

“This time should be used to explain to the people of Poland the significance of the Holocaust for the citizens of Israel,” Lapid said.

He added that Israel was holding talks with the United States to coordinate future responses.

Before World War II, Poland was the home of Europe’s largest Jewish community, making up 10 per cent of the country’s population of 3.5 million.

During German occupation, some 3 million Jews were killed by the Nazis in concentration camps, ghettos or during “special actions.”

After the war, the then-communist authorities nationalized numerous houses and properties whose owners had been killed or had fled.

In June, the Polish Foreign Ministry said that the amendment “is based on the need to ensure citizens’ trust in the state and to implement the principle of legal certainty. The possibility of challenging a decision issued by public authorities cannot be unlimited in time.”

A controversial Polish law on Holocaust terminology, which criminalizes speech suggesting Polish complicity in the Holocaust, had already upended relations between the two countries in 2018.

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