Israel and Poland are close to agreement on restoring limited diplomatic ties and could announce the opening of respective interest sections in Warsaw and Tel Aviv in several weeks, according to informed Israeli government sources.
At present, Romania is the only Warsaw Pact country to maintain ties with Israel, and Israeli officials said the Kremlin appeared eager to seek other conduits for Eastern Bloc contact with Jerusalem. "There's no doubt in our minds that whatever the Poles do, they do with the full knowledge of the Russians," an Israeli official said.
Behind-the-scenes negotiations for restoring ties, which were severed by Poland in the aftermath of the 1967 Middle East war, are an outgrowth of a meeting held in New York early this month between Israeli Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir and his Polish counterpart, Stefan Olszowski, before the opening of the U.N. General Assembly.
Israeli officials said that as a result of diplomatic contacts following that meeting, the two countries soon will announce agreement on renewing ties in trade, culture and tourism through interest sections in Warsaw and Tel Aviv. Initially, the main focus will be on trade, an Israeli official said.
In Warsaw, Polish government spokesman Jerzy Urban issued a statement this week acknowledging the meeting between the Polish and Israeli foreign ministers to discuss "the problem of contacts between the two countries," Washington Post correspondent Jackson Diehl reported.
However, the statement said the discussions did "not signify a change" in Poland's Middle East policy and should not be linked to diplomatic relations between Israel and Poland. Urban earlier this month stated Poland's position toward Israel, which calls for Israel's withdrawal from occupied territories and the establishment of an independent Palestine as well as "the existence of Israel in conditions of security and good neighborliness with the Arab states."
An Israeli government source said Israel's interests in Warsaw would be handled under the auspices of the Dutch Embassy there, although the interest section probably would not be located in the embassy.
The Polish interest section would be operated through the Polish state bank, PKO, which has operated in Tel Aviv for 52 years despite the break in diplomatic ties.
Eastern Bloc analysts here said the Israel-Poland talks should be viewed in the broader perspective of the renewed Soviet-Israeli dialogue over restoring diplomatic relations.
The Kremlin, which also broke relations with Israel in 1967, last July authorized its ambassador in Paris to discuss with his counterpart there conditions for renewing ties. Since then, a series of secret or semisecret contacts has been held between the two countries as each side appeared to be evaluating what it would gain, and what it would have to give up, to renew relations.
Eastern Bloc analysts here said that although Soviet renewal of ties to Israel would anger Syria, it would offer the Kremlin an opportunity to become a major player in Middle East diplomacy. Israel would gain renewed emigration of Soviet Jews and the kind of international legitimacy that comes with acceptance by both superpowers.