After a warm meeting, the two prime ministers promised to work towards further improving the already good Israel-Poland relations.
(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Office)
PM Olmert: It is my pleasure to welcome the Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland, Mr. Donald Tusk, to Israel. I thank the Prime Minister for choosing to visit Israel so soon after taking office, and at an especially meaningful time for us – the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel. The Prime Minister of Poland joins a long list of heads of state who are visiting Israel this year in the framework of the celebrations for the 60th Independence Day for the State of Israel. I have no doubt that this is testimony of the Prime Minister’s personal commitment to maintain and strengthen the relations between Israel and Poland, and we hope that this visit serves as an important landmark in the advancement of the ties between us.
Over the past several years, the relations between our countries have expanded in many fields. The scope of trade grew significantly, as well as Israeli investments in Poland. We encourage these trends, and intend to work together in order to increase them even further in the coming years.
This year is the year of culture between Israel and Poland. During this year, many cultural events will be held in both countries, which will allow both our peoples to better familiarize themselves with the other’s culture, thus strengthening the understanding and friendship between us.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of young people from Israel as well as many Jews from around the world travel to Poland with the goal of learning history up close. I attribute great importance to these visits and am convinced that your government will continue Poland’s years-long tradition of supporting this important program. I greatly appreciate your personal commitment, and that of your government, to increase Poland’s public awareness and perpetuate the memory of the Holocaust, and to the struggle against anti-Semitism.
Poland is one of Israel’s closest friends in Europe, and I thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, for Poland’s support of Israel in the European Union, the UN and in other international forums, and for your fair and balanced stance on issues which are important to our countries.
Beyond strengthening our bilateral ties, I intend to discuss with the Prime Minister a number of issues central to our agenda. Among them is the international effort to stop Iran’s nuclear program, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the war against terror and the situation in Gaza. Poland has much to contribute in the framework of the international community in general, and within the European Union in particular, in making important decisions to stop dangerous trends in the region and strengthen global stability.
I am very pleased of this opportunity to acquaint you, Mr. Prime Minister, with the challenges we face these days. I thank you again for your visit and your friendship, and wish you a successful visit in Israel. Welcome.
PM Tusk: Mr. Prime Minister, I am truly moved to have the privilege of making such an important visit – important to me personally and to my government because of the State of Israel’s forthcoming Independence Day. The timing is coincidence, and a very lucky one.
For the Polish people, in our history – and for me personally as well – the State of Israel’s national sovereignty and your Independence Day is not just another Independence Day of some other country. All people in Poland remember the birth and development of the State of Israel. It is very satisfying for us, and we all remember well what a major part the citizens of Poland played in the establishment of the State of Israel, and in its strengthening and development.
I came here to Israel today to ensure that as many common threads as possible in our history and cultures would be interwoven and become a basis for pride. Poland can be proud, as can Israel, of its history and achievements, and of what we accomplished together, when we lived together for hundreds of years of shared history. When we look forward against this backdrop, we see nations and we see people who, in this history, left with a feeling of being wronged or of guilt. Today we speak with each other in order that the citizens of Poland and the citizens of Israel will speak first of their feeling of commitment and responsibility regarding the future.
Nothing and no one can erase history from our memories, with its positive and negative baggage. We live and act to ensure that history aids people of good will, rather than obstructing them. With great determination and conviction I can say that the shameful phenomena of anti-Semitism and terror will not be tolerated in my country, and have no place among decent people in Poland, in Israel or any other place in the world. Acting against these things is our shared goal, and I am also pleased and do not hide the fact that I hope that our conversations will have a positive influence on improving the cooperation between us regarding the younger generation.
I hope that, after this visit, the cooperation between our countries will lead to young Israelis coming to Poland and being introduced to our current culture so that they, together with Polish youngsters, can search for hope for a better future. This is our greatest task.
The importance of history need not be denigrated, but let us say today in a loud voice that our goal is to live for full and prosperous cooperation in the future between the Poles and the Israelis, between Poland and Israel. I also hope that current developments in exchanges of knowledge, security and economic initiatives will become even better. I know that you know, and you know that I know that friends will be conversing today, and I wish you all the best on your Independence Day.
I take this opportunity to invite you to visit us in Poland, and would like to reiterate what I said to the President. You will always be at home in Poland.
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Joint Press Conference with PM Ehud Olmert and Polish PM Donald Tusk
PM Olmert: I am pleased to have the opportunity to host the Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland, Mr. Donald Tusk. This visit is an important one, and we appreciate the friendship, support and cooperation we share with the Government of Poland, headed by the current Prime Minister.
During our meeting today over lunch, which was very convivial and pleasant, we reached two important decisions, which I believe constitute an historic landmark. We agreed to upgrade the relations between Israel and Poland, and to strengthen and raise the strategic cooperation between our countries a level. This will be expressed as well through meetings throughout the year between our countries in a similar manner to the upgraded relations we share with other European countries.
We also decided to strengthen the exchange program between Israeli and Polish youth, to expand its foundation, to continue strengthening the cooperation and study of important chapters which are an inseparable part of our shared legacy, which we cannot – of course – forget or ignore.
However, we would like to expand the framework of the relations and build a basis for future cooperation to strengthen the already close relations between our countries. The commercial relations between Israel and Poland are developing. Poland is a central and dominant country in the European Union, and its support of Israel in the European Union, with international organizations and of Israel’s entry into the OECD is extremely important and greatly assists us in the daily challenges Israel faces in important and wide-ranging fields.
The Prime Minister is friendly, understanding, supportive, experienced and very eager to strengthen the relations between Israel and Poland. I can say here that I accepted the Prime Minister of Poland’s invitation to visit his country, and we will make every effort to ensure that this visit takes place during 2008. As you know, we announced that we have several important plans we wish to complete by the end of 2008. One of them is my visit, with other Ministers, to Poland as the guest of Prime Minister Donald Tusk.
Mr. Prime Minister, I am pleased to welcome you, the important delegations which arrived with you, and I thank you for your visit and for Poland’s warm and friendly relations with Israel. Welcome.
PM Tusk: Once again I thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, for the wonderful and warm hospitality.
I am very excited by our decisions and by our conversation which proved that representatives of our countries could speak with each other in very practical terms, and we spoke of various exchanges and shared interests. This discussion also showed that the future is even more interesting than the current situation.
What is important to us Poles, as well as to the citizens of Israel, is the ability to find in our special past the motivation and inspiration to ensure that the present and the future are much better and more productive. Productive – this word is crucial because we spoke of what could be a shared interest for both our countries and our people.
I wish to thank you for your immediate and positive response to my proposal to expand the youth exchanges and the joint work of our peoples, so that the young generations of our peoples will receive even better education and preparation to work together, to share lives and activities which will lead to real benefits, both for our people and for our countries.
It is traditional that Poland and Israel share similar views regarding the global situation and the global threats which characterize our era and the world today. It is not only that we share a similar perspective, but both sides have expressed willingness to cooperate closely in areas which may increase both our peoples’ sense of security – both security and world order.
We share a wonderful tradition of cooperation, and we know that this tradition is the basis for an even better future. I am also pleased we found a number of personal ties which further strengthen our connection, not only between our peoples but between individuals. We have many common interests and I believe that our activity – yours, Mr. Prime Minister and mine – can truly increase the pace of developing these ties.
In a minute or two we succeeded in determining that we would upgrade our relations to the highest possible levels, i.e. consultations at the level of ministers and prime ministers of both countries. This decision also referred to a timeline – we are speaking of a time – fall – and a place – Poland, and I am very pleased that in several months we will meet in Poland in a similar format. Mr. Prime Minister, I am very pleased that in such a short time – one lunch sufficed – we managed to initiate things very quickly, and this is an excellent sign.
Q: One question for the Prime Minister of Poland: what is your reaction to the weapons deals between Russia and Syria for curved-trajectory weapons, which usually reach the Hizbullah in Lebanon and threaten Israel?
PM Tusk: With regard to security problems caused by Russia’s actions in various places in the world, what is fundamental in my opinion is that fact that we heard with great appreciation the assessment made by Prof. Brotoshovsky, who truly has the right to remind us of this. During Israel’s early struggles, and when the situation was often critical – and this is a region in which critical situations are a daily occurrence – Poland always, and in a very significant manner, no matter who was ruling in Poland, supported Israel.
I hope that the time will come – and perhaps it already has – that the world, including Poland and Israel, and people understand very clearly who their true allies are, who can be trusted and who is only making a momentary gesture. I would like to emphasize that, over the past dozens of years – and perhaps it is not right to say this as I am only 51 years old and I should perhaps not speak of 60 years of Israel’s existence, but I still have some historic memory, so I can speak of the period of the establishment and building of Israel, i.e. 60 years – Without any connection to our difficult situation, we Poles have always supported Israel during hard times.
If you here – and I speak of the citizens of the State of Israel – have a justified feeling of being threatened, not only because of terror, but also because of actions or lack of actions taken by large countries in the world, I want to tell you that Poland, in the framework of our modest abilities, is a country which now and will in the future demonstrate great determination and sensitivity to threats like terror, and sometimes even arrogance from certain great nations. We are located in regions which at times demand military intervention, and we are there without any rewards. We are in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Golan Heights. This presence is not to win us any awards; it is proof that in our relations with the State of Israel, Poland genuinely means its statements of friendship. With the skepticism in your question – and I accept this skepticism – regarding the character of the relations of certain countries with Russia, I can responsibly only say why Poland acts as it does. And here there is a genuine feeling of satisfaction and fairness, and these are not things which are too commonplace in this day and age.
Q: Did you speak of compensation or of property left after World War II, and in this conversation were numbers or dates discussed? Does the Polish offer satisfy the Israeli side?
PM Tusk: The renewed privatization we are planning is not a matter for negotiation between the Government of Poland and other governments. This is true of all countries in which Polish citizens reside in the present or in the past, who have a chance or the right to demand compensation for assets.
We are prepared to provide information to anyone interested in the stage the legislative work is at. I would like to strongly emphasize, and parenthetically I will say that this was not a topic of discussion between us since this in not a governmental matter.
However, I still wish to strongly emphasize that in the coming months my government will complete the legislative process, which will end the serious and difficult problem of renewed privatization. This process will not be an aggregate one, one group will not receive special preference – not those currently living in Poland, not Jews who once lived in Poland. It will be a law which includes past and present citizens of Poland who lost their property.
I understand the interest of Jewish circles since they constitute a high percentage of Polish citizens, and thus I am pleased that wherever we speak of our initiative to wrap matters up quickly, there is tremendous understanding. The renewed privatization will take time to implement – it will not be completed overnight – and it will be limited. This is due to our confidence that the law of renewed privatization must be practicable. There is nothing worse than saying “I will return it” without having the possibility of doing so.
The Polish government and parliament genuinely want to return assets to its citizens who illegally lost their property, but of course the measure and scope must be practicable. I would like to be modest and fair in this statement, and therefore I am not waiting for enthusiasm or applause from anyone. We reached this decision and we will carry it out in a scope which is practicable.
PM Olmert: As the Prime Minister said, we did not discuss details of this issue, other than the fact that I expressed my appreciation for the Prime Minister’s initiative regarding lost property, especially with regard to the aspect relevant to us. I am impressed by the seriousness and willingness the Prime Minister is dedicating to this issue and how he is handling the issue in order to ensure an end which will provide justice for those people who had many assets in Poland which were lost. We did not have to say more than this.
Q: Mr. Prime Minister, do you support the United States’ intention to expose details of the Israeli attack on Syria in September, and do you think this will help Israel or harm it? Prime Minister Tusk, I would like to ask you if your country will support imposing independent European sanctions on Iran in addition to those of the Security Council?
PM Olmert: At this time, I prefer not to discuss any action taken by the State of Israel, if there was one or not. I can only say with regard to these issues that the Government of Israel’s position was precisely formulated by myself and the Minister of Defense, and matters relating to this issue were present to the US Government by the Minister of Defense and by me in an identical manner. We do not have two positions, just as we did not have any in any important security matter on the national agenda over the past year. The procedure is that we hold ongoing, complex discussions and in the end, we formulate a joint position.
We have acted thus on all matters on the agenda, and we continue to do so today. No position on any matter I presented or which was presented by someone acting on my behalf was different from the position agreed upon to the smallest detail between the Minster of Defense and myself.
PM Tusk: In order to answer your question regarding Iran and European solidarity on this difficult political matter, I would like to speak very openly and therefore I appeal to Israeli public opinion – there is no more reliable and loyal adherent of your stance and aspiration for a better and fairer world order in the European Union than Poland. If at times Israel finds deviants in the European position regarding the conflicts in this region, Poland is not the source of such clashes.
If there is a country in the European Union which determinedly and consistently advocates with great fairness in politics, which presents Middle Eastern matters in such a manner – it is my homeland. If you at times think that some countries in Europe are not consistent, I agree with you, this is true.
However, my country’s efforts are to always achieve a unified European stance in this conflict in which there is no absolute justice. In Poland, we have no doubt that Iran’s statements regarding Israel erase its right to status in international society. In this regard, we will continue to be consistent. Poland is interested in European Union solidarity with Israel and a braver stance than it has had until now.
Q: Mr. Prime Minister, several hours ago, you spoke of Prime Minister Tusk’s extraordinary efforts regarding the war against anti-Semitism and Jewish stereotypes in Poland. I want to ask you what the Israeli Government, what you are doing in order to help improve Poland’s image among Israelis?
PM Olmert: There is no doubt that the effort to improve our relations is mutual, both by the Government of Poland and by our own. We mentioned that this year is the Poland-Israel year of culture, to lead to a deepened understanding, awareness and mutual knowledge – ours of Polish society and of Polish society for ours. This is in part because of the desire to present the Israeli public with the broad dimensions of Polish history, culture, creativity and contribution to human society.
During lunch we spoke about Polish writers and composers. Improving our relations and increasing them in the field of culture, upgrading the strategic relations between Israel and Poland, deepening the economic ties between Israel and Poland are all part of the efforts to present the Israeli public with the Poland of 2008.
I believe that there is a feeling of great appreciation for the vast change which took place in your country. We do not for one second try to hide the difficult memories, which are an inseparable part of our legacy and of those who live in Poland. It is not coincidence that the President spoke of the matter of assets left behind and of compensation due. This does not replace the tremendous effort we must make to build on the historic infrastructure future relations based on hope and a chance for cooperation between two developed, liberal, open and democratic countries.
Our decision regarding youth exchanges and expanding the foundation for youth exchanges, as well as the intensification of matters dealt with by the young people, is part of the effort I am making together with you in order to provide these relations with the proper dimensions.
I am very pleased with the Prime Minister’s visit, and I believe he presents an enlightened, democratic, modern and prosperous Poland, which is a partner to the most profound ideas which characterize advanced societies of the enlightened West, which Poland is currently part of. Therefore, I believe this visit is important and our relations with Poland are very important.
Thank you all, and thank you Mr. Prime Minister.