The conference included four plenary sessions on 18 February followed by expert roundtables on 19 February devoted to U.S. and Russia policy in the Middle East and Iran’s activities in the region.
In the opening statement, the directors of the two institutions agreed that Polish-Israeli relations are in their most difficult state. The conviction that the baggage of shared history has been processed and that the countries are now able to focus on the future has proved to be wrong. The directors emphasized the role of the conference as an initiative enabling “rebuilding bridges”. Polish Ambassador to Israel Marek Magierowski stressed that history itself “remains unchanged” and political exploitation of it may be dangerous.
The participants of the first panel discussed issues related to Polish-Israeli historical memory and its effect on contemporary relations. Particular attention was paid to the instrumental use of World War II and the Holocaust for domestic political needs. The evolution of Holocaust studies and the definitions used were underlined. The Polish participants emphasized the great importance of methodological correctness and precision, necessary for conducting an honest scientific dialogue. Caring for a fair presentation of World War II history is all the more important as the recipients are changing—the vision of the past is shaped by modern culture.
During the second panel, experts compared the Polish and Israeli experiences related to climate change. The specificity of the problems in Poland and Israel was presented. The panellists noted that the challenges facing both countries regarding the climate crisis require difficult (and socially unpopular) reforms. A common opportunity is presented by new technologies, such as “clean energy”.
The third session was devoted to forecasts for political developments in the Middle East. Experts discussed the possible evolution of regional conflicts (e.g., civil war in Syria, situation in Iraq, future of ISIS) and the actions of major global actors (e.g., the new U.S. Israel-Palestinian peace plan, as presented by President Donald Trump). Much attention was devoted to social changes in the Middle East and how they will affect the states in the region. Much emphasis was put on Iran, its role in the Middle East and internal problems.
In the fourth panel, “The EU in the New Decade: Quo Vadis?”, Israeli-European relations and the condition of the EU itself was discussed. PISM representatives shared thoughts about the future course of the EU and the main directions of its planned reforms drafted in recent years in Brussels and in the Member States. They pointed out that the EU was able to manage a number of crises that should be considered a great success, but the organisation still faces many challenges arising from, for example, global dynamics.
9:45 – 10:00 Welcome:
- Laurence Weinbaum, Director General, Israel Council on Foreign Relations (ICFR)
- Sławomir Dębski, Director, Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM)
- E. Marek Magierowski, Ambassador of Poland
10:00 –10:20 Keynote Speaker:
Mr. Dan Meridor, President, Israel Council on Foreign Relations
10:20 – 12:00 Session 1: Challenges of History and Memory in Polish–Israeli Relations
Moderator: Dr. Laurence Weinbaum, Director General, ICFR
- E. Jakub Kumoch, Polish Ambassador to Switzerland
- Yehuda Bauer, Hebrew University/Yad Vashem
- Andrzej Nowak, Jagiellonian University
- Havi Dreyfuss, Tel Aviv University/Yad Vashem
12:00 – 12:15 Coffee Break
12:15 –13:15 Conversation: Climate Change: Polish and Israeli Experience
Moderator: Dr. Patrycja Sasnal, Head of Research, PISM
- Alon Tal, ICFR Board Member/Chair, Department of Public Policy, Tel Aviv University
- Aleksandra Gawlikowska-Fyk, Head of Power Project, Energy Forum
13:15 – 14:15 Lunch
14:15 – 15:45 Session 2: 2020 Foresight: Possible Scenarios in The Middle East
Moderator: Dr. Nir Boms, ICFR Board Member; Research Fellow, Dayan Center, Tel Aviv University/ International Center for Counter Terrorism, IDC Herzliya
- Ms. Sara Nowacka, Analyst, Middle East and Africa Program, PISM
- Dr. Jonathan Spyer, ICFR Board Member/Director, Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis/ Fellow, Jerusalem Center for Strategy and Security
- Mr. Michał Wojnarowicz, Analyst, Middle East and Africa Program, PISM
- Mr. Terry Newman, Senior Fellow, Security Program, Tel Aviv University
15:45 – 17:15 Session 3: The EU in the New Decade: Quo Vadis?
Moderator: Ambassador (ret.) Colette Avital, ICFR Board Member/Former MK
- Maya Sion-Tzidkiyahu, Adjunct Lecturer, European Studies Graduate Program, European Forum, Hebrew University/Co-President of the Israeli Association for the Study of European Integration (IASEI)
- Łukasz Kulesa, Deputy Head of Research, PISM
- Amichai Magen, ICFR Board Member/Head of MA Program in Diplomacy and Conflict Studies, IDC Herzliya & Governance & Political Violence Program, International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT)
- Jolanta Szymańska, Head of the European Union Program, PISM
17:15 – 17:30 Concluding Remarks