The conference on the Middle East peace and security ends in Warsaw on Thursday, 14 February. Some 60+ countries are present. US Vice-president Mike Pence, US State Secretary Mike Pompeo and Poland’s minister of foreign affairs Jacek Czaputowicz are the hosts. They sign the final statement.
Benjamin Nethanyahu is the key guest. The Americans and Israelis talk about a confrontation with Iran. The American vice-president appeals to the Europeans to change their Iran policy. The summit is hardly noticed in the Western European media. The summit is a minor event for the American policy dominated by president Trump twitter account. The summit provides a glory for the Israeli leader to shine with his new Arab allies and renewed Polish friends. The summit does not change the European policy – at best tries to challenge the EU unity.
The Iranians must be relieved. There were many anxieties ahead of the event.
Poland deals with the follow up
For Poland, the summit is an attempt to play a role in international affairs beyond being a member of the EU and a rotating member of the UN Security Council.
It turns bad. The relations with Iran are unfriendly since the summit has been announced. The trust of Europeans towards the Poles is further diminished. The Israeli prime minister in Warsaw speaks of Poles as Nazi collaborators. The Israeli officials try to explain the “misunderstanding”. The Israeli ambassador Azari in Warsaw tries to calm down the situation to no avail. She is a publicly known figure as last year she was the frontwoman in Poland in the fight against the controversial Holocaust law the Polish parliament adopted.
Mateusz Morawiecki is scheduled to go to Jerusalem for the V4 summit. It is supposed to be a crown proof that the relations between Israel and Central Europe are great and any past Polish-Israeli difficulties are over. Morawiecki is irritated with Nethanyahu. The Polish media are reporting Morawiecki had to wait for an hour for a meeting with the Israeli PM during the Warsaw summit.
Now Nethanyahu offended Poles. The irritation with the Israeli leader in Warsaw grows. Morawiecki hesitates to cancel his trip to Jerusalem. An unnamed PiS politician is quoted in Gazeta Wyborcza: “He should not go. Nethanyahu runs a political campaign in Poland. If Morawiecki cancels, Nethanyahu has a problem, not us”.
Gazeta Wyborcza quotes another disappointed PiS politician: “Jacek Czaputowicz should be fired for the Warsaw conference. He did not prepare the summit properly, he did not provide hard American guarantees for us. He was played by the Americans, he even allowed for them to be the first to announce that this meeting takes place in Warsaw”.
One more PiS voice from the inside of the government: “First Pompeo in his first speech speaks of restitution of Jewish property, then an American journalist says that the insurgents in the ghetto fought the ‘Polish regime’, and finally such words of the Prime Minister of Israel”.
The V4 Jerusalem summit cancelled
Over the weekend Israel gets a few foreign minister appointed, Yisrael Katz. Mr Katz speaks to the media. He says “Poles collaborated with the Nazis, definitely. As Yitzhak Shamir said, they suckle anti-Semitism with their mothers’ milk”. An outrage in Warsaw. Morawiecki cancels his trip to Israel. Czaputowicz also will not go. Andrej Babiš, Czech prime minister, confirms: the V4 summit is cancelled and rescheduled for later this year – after the Israeli and European elections.
Poles collaborated with the Nazis, definitely. As Yitzhak Shamir said, they suckle anti-Semitism with their mothers’ milkYisrael Katz
Poland awaits apologies. Everybody agrees with the reaction of Marek Magierowski, Poland’s ambassador in Tel Aviv: those words were “unacceptable”. Yitzhak Shamir, former Israeli prime minister, has withdrawn from his comments before he died in 2012. The Polish actors call the Israeli FM “anti-Polish” and racist and scandalous.
For now, Israel is silent. Israel is in the heat of its domestic electoral campaign ahead of the 9 April vote. Prime minister Nethanyahu runs a nationalist campaign. It’s an easy and populist trick to accuse Poland of anti-Semitism.
Looking for a scapegoat
Law and Justice is unhappy. There is a series of unfortunate events. They all started with the Warsaw Middle East conference. The person to blame: Jacek Czaputowicz, the foreign minister without political support of PiS. The mistakes of Mr Czaputowicz are plentiful. One, to invite Mr Nethanyahu to Warsaw during the Israeli campaign. Two, because Poland is on the defensive. Three, the growing anti-Polish sentiment in Israel. Four, all that American unbalanced message in Warsaw. All the criticism comes from the unnamed PiS interlocutors of the Polish media.
‘No heads will roll for now‘ is the conclusion of Tuesday this week. Czaputowicz is to stay. Morawiecki is to stay. For now. The media are speculating about a potential urgent meeting of the PiS leadership without the prime minister. The meeting is not taking place, the PiS chairman Jarosław Kaczyński is on his monthly trip to Kraków to visit the grave of his late brother president Lech Kaczyński. Still, the news people in Warsaw are sure of one thing: there seems to be a growing discontent with prime minister Morawiecki and foreign minister Czaputowicz.
In January Mike Pompeo breaks the news about an upcoming Middle East conference in Warsaw. Poles put up a mask to portray themselves as hosts. They try to send a message that choosing Warsaw is an ideal location to bring the Europeans and Americans together on Iran.
The Americans have a different objective: Iran is a threat. From Warsaw Nethanyahu tweets about war with Iran. Tweet is cancelled. Pompeo talks confrontation. The Polish efforts are fruitless. When Mike Pence calls on the Europeans to join the US sanctions on Iran, Poles are stunned. Other Europeans should be outraged if they were present.
Americans came to Warsaw and went. As the dust settles the Polish leaders expected a victory. In their own eyes, the sovereignist government in Warsaw has been marching for the past three years from one victory to the next. Their hopes for security are with the Americans. They want US military presence in Poland. They seek the US visas to be lifted. Warsaw believes only Washington can protect it from Moscow.
Today they feel exposed. They feel used. They feel dumb. What Americans did is not what you do to an ally and a friend. Vice-President Pence used the Warsaw platform to break the European unity. Secretary Pompeo launched a verbal attack on Iran and the nuclear agreement.
The Polish diplomats try their best to make the summit a success. They talk about the Warsaw process. There are scheduled a number of activities post-summit on counterterrorism, missile development and weapons proliferation, cyber and emerging threats as well as human rights. There will be the Middle East Strategic Study Group between the Polish and American think tanks.
Still, the diplomatic follow up cannot cover up the political message of the day: what Americans did one does to a satellite state or to a neutral state. The Polish diplomats are torn. On the one hand, Poland should not and cannot go against the Americans. It is not easy to get out of the puppet state status. Paradoxically, the Warsaw summit helps Poles to realize their true place in the wider world order as American potato republic.
On the other hand, there is the European offer. As Tony Blair learned in India and Angela Merkel in China: every European nation is small. There is a major disproportion between a European nation and a large world power. It is now time for the Polish sovereignists to learn the lesson: the only way to a success is via a common European foreign policy. There is no much room for bilateralism.
Torn as they may be, the Polish lesson from the Warsaw summit is clear: to host it was a mistake.