Poland demands action over assault of ambassador to Israel

The entrance of the Polish Embassy is seen in Tel Aviv, Israel May 15, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 16 May 2019
0

Poland demands action over assault of ambassador to Israel

  • Poland strongly condemns this xenophobic act of aggression
  • Israel expresses its full sympathy with the Polish ambassador

WARSAW: Poland’s prime minister on Wednesday condemned what he described as a “xenophobic” assault on the country’s ambassador to Israel, who was spat at on a Tel Aviv street at a time of rising tensions between the two nations.

Israeli officials expressed shock at the assault on Marek Magierowski on Tuesday afternoon and were investigating the incident. Israeli police said they had detained and released a 65-year-old man suspected of approaching the ambassador, who was sitting in his car, and spitting at him.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the suspect remained under house arrest until Thursday.

The incident comes amid a bitter standoff between Poland and Israel over how to remember the Holocaust and over demands that Poland pay reparations for former Jewish properties that were seized by Nazi Germany and later nationalized by Poland’s communist regime.

Israeli Ambassador Anna Azari was summoned to the Polish Foreign Ministry in Warsaw on Wednesday over the incident. Michal Dworczyk, the head of Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s office, said the Polish government expects the perpetrator to be punished. Morawiecki expressed his concern at what he described as a “racist” attack.

“Poland strongly condemns this xenophobic act of aggression. Violence against diplomats or any other citizens should never be tolerated,” Morawiecki said.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, Emmanuel Nahshon, said the assault was being investigated and that “we will update our Polish friends” on what is found.

“Israel expresses its full sympathy with the Polish ambassador and shock at the attack,” Nahshon said. “This is a top priority to us, as we are fully committed to diplomats’ safety and security.”

Ties between the two countries became strained in January 2018 when Poland passed a law that criminalized blaming the Polish nation for the crimes of Nazi Germany during World War II. Poland’s conservative nationalist government described it as an effort to end linguistic formulations, such as “Polish death camps,” to refer to the death camps that Germans operated on occupied Polish territory during the war.

However, many people in Israel felt it was an attempt by the Polish government to repress debate and scholarship looking at the cases of those Poles who helped the Nazis in killing Jews during the occupation, and even after the war ended.


Pakistan bracing for austere budget under IMF, finance chief says

Updated 25 May 2019
0

Pakistan bracing for austere budget under IMF, finance chief says

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is preparing a belt-tightening budget to tame its fiscal deficit, the de facto finance minister said on Saturday, adding that both civilian and military rulers agreed austerity measures were needed to stabilise the economy.
But Hafeez Shaikh, Prime Minister Imran Khan's top finance adviser, declined to say whether the military's hefty budget would be cut following last week's agreement in principle with the International Monetary Fund for a $6 billion loan.
The IMF has said the primary budget deficit should be trimmed by the equivalent of $5 billion, but previous civilian rulers have rarely dared to trim defence spending for fear of stoking tensions with the military.
Unlike some other civilian leaders in Pakistan's fragile democracy, Khan appears to have good relations with the country's powerful generals.
More than half of state spending currently goes on the military and debt-servicing costs, however, limiting the government's options for reducing expenditure.
"The budget that is coming will have austerity, that means that the government's expenditures will be put at a minimum level," Shaikh told a news conference in the capital Islamabad on Saturday, a few weeks before the budget for the 2019/20 fiscal year ending in June is due to be presented.
"We are all standing together in it whether civilians or our military," said Shaikh, a former finance minister appointed by Khan as part of a wider shake-up of his economic team in the last two months.
In the days since last week's agreement with the IMF, the rupee currency dropped 5% against the dollar and has lost a third of its value in the past year.
Under the IMF's terms, the government is expected to let the rupee fall to help correct an unsustainable current account deficit and cut its debt while trying to expand the tax base in a country where only 1% of people file returns.
Shaikh has been told by the IMF that the primary budget deficit -- excluding interest payments -- should be cut to 0.6% of GDP, implying a $5 billion reduction from the current projection for a deficit of 2.2% of GDP.
The next fiscal year's revenue collection target will be 5.55 trillion rupees ($36.88 billion), Shaikh told the news conference, highlighting the need for tough steps to broaden the tax base.