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Israeli PM Hosts Central European Counterparts After Visegrad Summit Scrapped

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) poses for pictures with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki during the Middle East summit in Warsaw on February 14.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has held talks with his Slovakian counterpart, Peter Pellegrini, in a first set of bilateral meetings with Central European leaders after a high-profile summit was canceled over a rift with Poland.

Benjamin Netanyahu is hosting Pellegrini on February 19 in Jerusalem and is also to meet Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban before hosting all three for lunch at his official residence.

The bilateral meetings are the result of the canceling of a planned summit between Israel and the members of the so-called Visegrad Group consisting of Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia. The summit unraveled after Poland withdrew to protest Israeli leaders' comments about Poland's role in the Holocaust.

Netanyahu had touted the gathering as a milestone in his outreach to the emerging democracies of Central and Eastern Europe.

Poland canceled its attendance after remarks made by both Netanyahu and his acting foreign minister, Israel Katz, which Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki labeled "racist."

Katz told Israel's i24 television on February 18 that "there were many Poles who collaborated with the Nazis, and like [late Prime Minister] Yitzhak Shamir, whose father was murdered, said, 'Poles suckle anti-Semitism with their mothers' milk.'"

A day earlier, Netanyahu had made an off-hand remark during a Middle East summit in Warsaw, saying that Poles had collaborated with the Nazis during World War II.

He was quoted by The Jerusalem Post as saying "the Poles," which some people took to mean blaming the entire Polish nation.

Later, the Israelis said Netanyahu had been misquoted and had spoken of individual "Poles, and not the Polish people."

Based on reporting by AP and AFP