He doesn’t like going abroad much – but this week the President of Poland is visiting a key country for Polish foreign policy.
Lech Kaczynski likes to stay at home. But one of the draw backs of being head of state is that you have to keep packing your passport.
Since becoming president last autumn he still hasn’t done much traveling. He has made the short hop to Brussels and Germany and back in February he was in Washington. But now he is begining to seriously clock up some frequent fly miles by going to Tel Aviv .
The EU, US, Israel – these are the key destinations for a new Polish president to make an impact and give some character and purpose to diplomacy.
Israel is far from being an easy trip.
The inclusion of the League of Polish Families (LPR) in the governing coalition this year, a party which Tel Aviv thinks is anti-Semitic, prompted the Israeli government to protest via their Ambassador in Warsaw. So the Polish president is going to be very eager to please.
Today a joint declaration on the visits of youth delegations to Poland was signed by Israel’s Deputy Director-General for Eurasian Affairs Mark Sofer and Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Kowal.
These youth visits were under the control of LPR’s Roman Giertych as education secretary, before the government removed them from his department after complaints from Israel.
President Kaczynski told Haaretz before he left for Israel:
"Giertych is not anti-Semitic, He only grew up in an anti-Semitic tradition. He is the son and grandson of Polish politicians. But recently he has undergone a change. Today he is certainly not anti-Semitic. There is no problem with him. The problem lies in the extremist elements in his party."
But what about the statue Kaczynski unveiled last month dedicated to WW II Polish resistance fighter Jozef Kuras, who not only fought the Nazis and then the communists but also found time to attack an orphanage full of Jewish Holocaust survivors?
"I heard about Kuras as an anti-Communist activist," he says, "but I was not aware of all the other aspects relating to him. This is a subject of historical controversy. Accordingly, I have ordered an examination of the matter so that the historical truth will come to light."
So keen was the President to impress Israeli journalists he occasionally went over the top a little.
"I am fond of Israel, Poland has a special relationship with Israel," Kaczynski told Haaretz, "Arik Sharon is one of my big heroes."
Maybe not a great thing to come out with. Sharon is not a popular figure in either Palestine or Lebanon. Poland has promised to send over 500 troops as part of the UN peacekeeping force in Hezbollah territory. Polish forces might have to confront them if they see any breach of the ceasefire. He is also going to have meetings with the President of the Palestinian authority, Mahmoud Abbas.
But there was no stopping Kaczynski. On his personal view of Jews he gushed:
“I love Jews. I had many Jewish friends in the different periods of my life. I understand today what I did not understand as a child: that my attitude toward the Jews was that I viewed them as Poles in every respect, albeit as special Poles. [?] At home and in my milieu I heard that Christos was actually a Jew. It is true that I also heard other voices, which claimed that the Jews crucified Christ."
Kaczynski is in Israel for four days, the longest time he has spent in a country abroad. Such is the importance of Israel to Polish foreign policy.
Polish president: We're Israel's best friend in Europe, Jerusalem Post, Sep 11