PARIS – The world leaders who participated in the massive anti-terrorism march in Paris need to fight that scourge everywhere, “even when it is against Israel and the Jews,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday.
Netanyahu spoke during a visit to the site of Friday’s attack at a kosher grocery in eastern Paris, where four French Jews were killed. His comments reflected the message Israel is trying to send to the leaders of the world in the wake of the Paris attacks, that there must be no double standard on terrorism.
One senior official said there was a sense in Jerusalem that when journalists in Europe are attacked, there is wall-to-wall horror and outrage, and no attempt to look for a justification or reason for the murders. This is not the case, he said, when Palestinian terrorists kill Israelis or Jews, and there are attempts by some to justify it as being caused by the “occupation” and the settlements, rather than being a manifestation of Islamic extremism.
“When two terrorists enter a Har Nof synagogue and gun down the worshipers, there are those who say it is because of new housing in Gilo,” the official said, referring to two neighborhoods in Jerusalem. The brutal attacks in Paris, he continued, may help to convince Europe that the Palestinian terrorism is not linked to a particular Israeli policy, but rather stems from the same ideology that motivated those who carried out the atrocities in the French capital.
The Paris victims Yoav Hattab, 21; Yohan Cohen, 22; Philippe Braham, 40; and François-Michel Saada, 60, are set to be buried Tuesday in a state funeral, attended by Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin among others, at the Har Hamenuhot cemetery.
According to officials in Jerusalem, despite Sunday’s massive event, it still remained to be seen to what extent France will change its attitude toward Islamic extremists, and to what extent that will lead to a change in its attitude toward tolerance inside the Palestinian Authority for the terrorism of Hamas, which is an extreme Islamic terrorist organization.
Outside the kosher grocery, Netanyahu said there was a direct line connecting terrorist attacks around the world carried out by Islamic extremists and the attack against a kosher store in the heart of Paris.
A few hundred French Jews stood on the sidewalk near the grocery, waving Israeli flags and chanting “Bibi, Bibi” as the prime minister’s motorcade arrived in the early afternoon. They alternately sang “La Marseillaise,” expressing their connection to France, and “Hatikva,” and “Jerusalem of Gold,” expressing their connection to Israel. They also chanted “Am Yisrael Hai,” the People of Israel lives.
The same dynamic was at work the previous night at the ceremony held in the Grand Synagogue of Paris that Netanyahu and French President François Hollande attended.
Referring to that event, Netanyahu said he was moved by that expression of “true Jewish solidarity.”
He said he met two brothers of the Jewish victims killed at the grocery and told them he “understands their pain,” and that the people of Israel embrace them.
Netanyahu was accompanied to the grocery store by Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman.
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, who also holds the Diaspora affairs portfolio, went to the site the day before.
Following his meeting with Jewish leaders, Netanyahu met with former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, likely to run in the next presidential election scheduled for 2017. Netanyahu then flew back to Israel and arrived in the evening.
Earlier, the prime minister deflected domestic criticism that his visit to Paris was unnecessary, a security risk, politically motivated, and that the French really did not want him, saying it was very important for Israel’s leader to walk together with other world leaders in a march against terrorism.
“There was a great deal of significance to what the world saw, the prime minister of Israel marching together with all leaders of the world in one effort against terrorism, or at least a call to unite against terrorism,” Netanyahu said.
Before a meeting in his Paris hotel with the leaders of the French Jewish community, he said that Israel has called for years for a united world front against terrorism.
“If the world doesn’t unite against terror, the plague of terror that we saw here will increase in a way that people cannot imagine,” he said. “Israel supports Europe in its struggle against terror, and the time has come for Europe to support Israel in that very same struggle.”
Reacting to reports that French President François Hollande did not initially want Netanyahu at the march because he was afraid that it would add a Palestinian-Israeli dimension into the event and divert attention, one senior source in the prime minister’s entourage said that these concerns were expressed by Hollande in a conversation the two had Friday evening.
However, the source said, when Netanyahu decided that it was important that he take part in the event, Hollande spoke to him again Saturday night and welcomed him. The two sat together on the bus Sunday for a short ride to the march from the Élysée Palace.
One official pointed to the criticism leveled against US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry for not participating in the event, and said similar criticism would have been directed at Netanyahu had he not participated in the march.
According to the official, people would have slammed him for lecturing to the world about the need to take a united stand against terrorism, but not joining in a march designed to send exactly that message.
The source said that Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas – who also marched in the front line with the world’s leaders in Paris – may have greeted each other, but did not engage in any substantive conversation.
The prime minister, in an apparent reference to his insistence at marching in the front line of the world’s leaders, said he would always ensure that “Israel will walk in the front line with everything connected to its future and security.”