Israeli Ambassador to Poland Yacov Livne (C) speaks to journalists in Warsaw. He has been criticized for his behaviour following the killing of seven aid workers in Gaza. EPA-EFE/PAWEL SUPERNAK


Poland slams Israeli Ambassador over comments about aid workers’ deaths


Polish President Andrzej Duda has slammed Israel’s Ambassador to Poland Yacov Livne for his remarks regarding the airstrike by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) in Gaza that killed seven aid workers including Pole Damian Soból.

Duda called Livne “the biggest problem” in Polish-Israeli relations.

The Israeli Ambassador was summoned to appear at Poland’s foreign ministry on April 5 to meet deputy foreign minister Andrzej Szejna to receive a diplomatic note protesting the IDF attack.

Speaking after the meeting, Szejna said Livne had finally apologised for the IDF attack, which he had previously refused to do in the media or his social media posts.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk had called on the Ambassador to issue a public apology for the IDF assault and Polish prosecutors have launched a murder investigation into Soból’s death.

Livne caused outrage during appearances on Polish media and with his social media posts in which he refused to issue an apology. He called the fatal incident an “accidental tragedy of the sort which often happens in war” and promised an investigation – to be carried out solely by the Israelis.

Journalist Robert Mazurek, who interviewed Livne for internet channel Zero, told portal Livne had shouted at him in complaining about the questions he was asked.

“I have done hundreds of interviews and sometimes at the end of them people stormed off or refused to shake my hand but I have never had someone scream at me in front of bemused cameramen,” said Mazurek.

Before his round of media interviews, the Ambassador had clashed with Polish right- and left-wing politicians who had called the Israeli action a war crime and demanded the perpetrators be tried and punished.

Livne accused them of anti-Semitism saying that “anti-Semites will always remain anti-Semitic”.

Duda on April 4 had called his remarks “outrageous”, adding that “the Ambassador is the biggest problem for Israel in its relations with Poland”.

The President hinted that Israel was not best served by Livne. “The authorities in Israel are expressing their views on this tragedy in a very subdued and sensitive manner,” Duda said.

“Unfortunately, their Ambassador in Poland cannot maintain such delicacy and sensitivity, which is unacceptable.”

Tusk also criticised Livne’s remarks, saying he “absolutely does not accept the Ambassador’s way of communicating on this matter”.

The PM added: “If he decides to make public appearances in our media, he should use this opportunity to say a simple, human ‘sorry’.”

Tusk concluded by expressing Poland’s displeasure at the Ambassador’s behaviour. “I would very much like the representatives of the State of Israel here in Poland to respect the justified emotions of Poles, especially in such a situation,” he said

Leader of the opposition Conservatives (PiS) Jarosław Kaczyński went further and said that Livne should be sent back to Israel because Poland needed to “show some assertiveness as the conciliatory course taken by our country towards Israel since 1989 has proved ineffective”.

Polish-Israeli relations have been a mix of Warsaw’s support of Israel’s right to self-defence and restraint in any support for Palestinians.

The two countries have clashed about the past with Israeli politicians repeatedly making claims about Polish participation in the Holocaust and of Polish anti-Semitism in the 1930s and 1960s.