Warsaw, October 13, 2004

Thank you Foreign Minister for your kind words and for your generous hospitality.

This is my first visit to Poland, and I have been made to feel welcome here wherever I have visited, including the home town of my wife’s family, in Goray.

Indeed, the common bonds between our two nations stretch back over almost one thousand years. During this period – and until the middle of the last century – Jewish life in Poland flourished economically, culturally and religiously, in a manner which enriched both the Jewish community itself, and Polish society as a whole.

Tragically, this wonderful existence was destroyed in the extermination camps and the other horrors of the Nazi period. These events left an indelible print on our collective memory which will never be eradicated. Any visit of an Israeli Foreign Minister to Poland, is sadly coloured by the memory of that dark period. For the sake of our future, we must always remember the past and learn its lessons. 

In this context, Israel welcomes the efforts made by Poland to address the past, and to educate the younger generation towards a future of tolerance, memory, cooperation and understanding. We also welcome Poland’s leading role in the global battle against anti-Semitism. In our meeting today, Foreign Minister Cimoszewicz and I discussed ways in which we can work together to further enhance this shared objective.

Israel views Poland as a true friend and a close ally. Our countries share many common values and common interests.

Today we discussed concrete ways to improve our trade ties and mutual investment, and we also signed a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance the dialogue and exchange of information between our Foreign Ministries.

As two democracies, Israel and Poland also share a broad range of common concerns and challenges, and we are united in our commitment to cooperate with each other in addressing them. First among these common challenges is the danger of global fundamentalist terrorism.

Only last week in Taba, the world was witness once again to the limitless determination of the terrorists to destroy innocent life. Such attacks are bringing the world to realize what we in Israel have long known – that terrorism is a challenge to humanity as a whole, not just to individual countries; that the response to terrorism must be global if it is to be effective; and that the threat of terrorism anywhere, is a threat to freedom everywhere. All terrorist organizations, and countries such as Syria and Iran, who continue to provide support these organizations, must be isolated and held to account for their actions.

Israel looks to countries – like Poland – who have known the price of tyranny, to show the way in the international effort to ensure that our hard-won freedoms are protected and secured.

I am glad to have this opportunity also to congratulate my colleague on Poland’s accession to the European Union last May. I am convinced that this is a most positive development in every way – for Poland, for Europe, and for Israel. I look forward to Poland raising its strong and powerful voice in Europe, and in the international community as a whole, on issues related to the Middle East.

Israel seeks peace with our Palestinian neighbors. We remain committed to the internationally-backed Roadmap, yet sadly, we have no responsible Palestinian partner ready to join us in this effort. We are therefore now planning to leave the Gaza Strip as a means of enhancing security and establishing a new, more promising, platform for a return to negotiations when a more responsible and peaceful Palestinian leadership emerges. Europe, we believe, can play an important role in facilitating this process.

I also raised with Foreign Minister Cimoszewicz the urgent need to address the danger to the entire international community posed by Iran’s nuclear program. International pressure on Iran must be dramatically intensified if we are to prevent Iran’s nuclear ambitions. As a member of the Board of Governors of the IAEA, Poland can play a key role in this effort.

Finally, let me say once again, how pleased I am to be here in Poland, and to express to you, Minister, my hope to see you soon in Jerusalem, so that I may reciprocate your kind hospitality, and so that we can continue working together to promote the strong ties of friendship between our nations, to the benefit of both peoples.