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 international policy.

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 Gore.

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 states.

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.
Union of Jewish Religious Communitites in Poland
Kosher Food in Poland
Pardes Lauder: The Torah in Polish
Poland and Israel after 1989
Rebirth of Jewish Life in Poland After 1989
The Jewish Press in Poland Today
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Adam Mickiewicz Institute, Mokotowska 25, 00-560 Warsaw tel. (48-22) 44 76 100,
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