Poland condemns “outrageous” remarks by Israeli ambassador on Gaza aid worker deaths

President Andrzej Duda has criticised Israeli ambassador Yakov Livne for his “outrageous” remarks regarding the airstrike in Gaza earlier this week that killed aid workers, including Polish national Damian Soból. Duda declared Livne to be “the biggest problem” in Polish-Israeli relations.

Poland’s foreign ministry, meanwhile, has summoned Livne for talks tomorrow while Prime Minister Donald Tusk has called on the ambassador to issue a public apology for the attack. Earlier this week, Polish prosecutors opened a homicide investigation into Soból’s death.

Prosecutors in Poland have opened a homicide investigation into the death of Damian Soból, the Polish aid worker killed in Israel’s strike on a humanitarian convoy in Gaza.

The speaker of Poland’s parliament has also called for a war crime investigation https://t.co/tPQkBRBlPe

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) April 3, 2024

Since Monday’s strike – which killed seven people working for the World Central Kitchen aid organisation in Gaza – Livne has appeared in a number of different Polish media outlets to speak about the tragedy.

While he has echoed the Israeli government’s expressions of regret for the incident and promises of a thorough and transparent investigation, the ambassador has refused to issue a direct apology.

Livne has also hit back against Polish politicians who have accused Israel of deliberately attacking the aid convoy, going as far as to suggest that they are antisemites. The ambassador has maintained that the strike was a tragic accident.

“The Israeli army does not target humanitarian organisations,” said Livne on Wednesday in an interview with YouTube channel Kanał Zero. “[But] accidental tragedies sometimes happen during war…We regret what happened, but what is important is how it happened and what exactly happened.”

🗣️ @YacovLivne: „Musimy to absolutnie jasno powiedzieć i w tym chyba się zgodzimy. Siły obrony Izraela, armia Izraela, nie bierze na cel organizacji humanitarnych. Po prostu tego nie robimy. Tak samo jak zapewne nie robi tego armia Rzeczpospolitej Polski i Stanów Zjednoczonych.… pic.twitter.com/VUqlOHdvcG

— OficjalneZero (@OficjalneZero) April 3, 2024

Speaking today, President Duda said that “the statements of the Israeli ambassador to our country are – let me put this as delicately as possible – not very fortunate and, in short, outrageous”.

“The ambassador is the biggest problem for Israel in its relations with Poland,” he continued. “The authorities in Israel are expressing their views on this tragedy in a very subdued and sensitive manner. Unfortunately, their ambassador in Poland cannot maintain such delicacy and sensitivity, which is unacceptable.”

Duda also repeated calls for Israel to pay compensation to Soból’s family. This should be done “regardless of the causes of the event – whether it was an accident or any other situation”, he added.

Prezydent @AndrzejDuda o wypowiedzi ambasadora Izraela w Polsce: pic.twitter.com/01zAed3xgE

— Kancelaria Prezydenta (@prezydentpl) April 4, 2024

Also speaking today, Tusk likewise declared that he “absolutely does not accept the ambassador’s way of communicating on this matter”.

“There is nothing here that can be justified by the war situation, as we heard in the ambassador’s attempts to explain the circumstances,” said the prime minister. “If he decides to make public appearances in our media, he should use this opportunity to say a simple, human ‘sorry’.”

“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,” added Tusk.

Meanwhile, deputy Polish foreign minister Andrzej Szejna announced today that Livne has been summoned for talks at the ministry on Friday morning regarding the incident in Gaza.

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Main image credit: LUW (under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 PL)

Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign PolicyPOLITICO EuropeEUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.

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