Poland and Israel after 1989
On the fifth day of the six-day war, on
June 9, 1967, the states of the Warsaw pact broke diplomatic and
economic ties with the state of Israel. Although the decision itself was
made in Moscow, the rest of the Warsaw pact members (except Romania)
supported and implemented it.
This step was meant to be a protest against the "Israel's
imperialistic policies towards the Arab states". It should be recalled
that those states, financed and armed by the USSR, suffered a crushing
defeat in the conflict with Israel. This demonstrated the weakness of
both the Soviet military doctrine and weapons in the face of the Israeli
armaments and military tactics.
This conflict had an impact in the international diplomatic arena,
and resulted in a number of UN decrees aimed against the policies of the
state of Israel, such as the resolution of the UN General Assembly
dated November 10, 1975, recognizing Zionism as a form of racism.
It was only in the late 1980-s when Mikhail Gorbachev came to power
in the USSR that a thaw came in relations between the Soviet bloc and
Israel. As the secretary general of the Communist Party of the Soviet
Union, he attempted to implement reforms. An unintended side-effect was
the mobilization of the dissident movement, which was fighting for human
rights, including the right to freedom of religion and cultivation of
national traditions. As a result, for the first time in the history of
the Soviet Union, a revolution from below was underway to revise
Following the lead of the USSR, in other east bloc states, attempts
were made to reestablish ties with Israel. The first talks were informal
and related to the organization of conferences and access to academic
publications. The first international conference of historians,
including Poles, took place in 1988 in Jerusalem. Later, trade and
technological exchanges were discussed.
Polish-Israeli contacts grew closer. In 1989, a Representation of
the Interests of the Israeli State was opened at the embassy of the
Kingdom of Holland. On February 27, 1990, an Israeli Embasssy was opened
in Warsaw. This is the date that marks the establishment of full
diplomatic ties between the two countries.
Ten months later, on December 26, 1990, diplomatic ties are
established between Israel and the USSR, which became a symbol that the
hostilities between the two countries had abated-something that had
characterized international relations for the previous two decades.
A full dialogue between Poland and Israel
was initiated by a visit to Israel by the Polish president, Lech Walesa,
in May 1991. In his speech, he referred to the many centuries of common
history, and also to the wrongs that had been inflicted on Jews by
Poles in the past.
A year later, in May 1992, the president of Israel, Chaim Herzog,
came to Poland on an official state visit. During his speech to the
Sejm, he said: "In our relations there have been praiseworthy periods of
fair weather. There have also been tragic periods marked by dark
clouds. Together we have created a mosaic, whose complicated structure
is reflected in the mirror of both our histories. The ties between us
are real and tangible."
Another occasion for Polish-Israeli meetings were the anniversaries
associated with the Holocaust and the fiftieth anniversary of the Warsaw
ghetto uprising in April 1993. Guests were the Prime Minister of
Israel, Itzhak Rabin and the Vice President of the United States, Al
In January 1995, the fiftieth anniversary of the liberation of the
Auschwitz-Birkenau camp was observed. An official Israeli delegation
took part, as well as the speaker of the Kneset, Shevach Weiss, who in
2000 became ambassador to Poland.
In January 1999, Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski visited
Israel several days, having been invited by the Peres Center for Peace.
Currently, contacts between Israel and Poland are maintained between
the prime ministers and foreign ministers. Decisions are made about
further legal regulations and cooperation projects between the two
Since Polish-Israeli contacts were renewed over a decade ago, many
important treaties have been signed regulating relations between the two
countries. Most important have regarded trade and economic cooperation;
the avoidance of double taxation; support for and mutual protection of
investment; economic, scientific and technological cooperation in the
field of agriculture.
For Poles and Israelis, projects for youth cooperation and exchange
have been especially important in bringing these two nations together in
a spirit of mutual understanding. Also helpful has been the increased
tourism between the two countries in both directions: Poles to the Holy
Land, and Jews to Poland, the country where so many Israeli citizens
have their roots.