Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Grand Synagogue in Paris, January 11, 2015.
(photo credit: screenshot)
PARIS – Just as Israel stands with France against terrorism, so France must stand with Israel against terrorism, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday evening at a central Paris synagogue, at the end of a day in which he marched with 60 world leaders to denounce terrorist attacks.
“Today I walked the streets of Paris with the leaders of the world, to say enough terrorism; the time has come to fight terrorism,” Netanyahu said to the crowd of hundreds of French Jews.
Before he spoke, numerous senior political figures, from French President Francois Hollande to Prime Minister Manuel Valls and former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, came to the ceremony.
They were there when members of the community lit 17 candles for the victims, both Jews and gentiles, of last week’s terrorist attacks.
None of the French politicians spoke. Sarkozy was greeted warmly as he left and people climbed on the pews to salute Hollande when he left the synagogue, many of them shouting “Merci, merci.”
When Netanyahu took the podium, the cavernous sanctuary resonated with shouts of his nickname, “Bibi, Bibi.”
The prime minister repeated that the world, not only Israel, is facing the threat of Islamist extremism and must battle it together. “The truth and righteousness are with us. Our common enemy is extreme Islam, not Islam, not regular extremists, but extreme Islam,” he stated.
Netanyahu said extreme Islam doesn’t hate the West because of Israel, but hates Israel because it is an organic part of the West.
Although much of his speech was punctuated with applause, the loudest cheering came when he said that Jews today have the privilege to live in Israel.
Netanyahu, careful not to overtly called for immediate immigration, said, “ I want to say to you what I say to all our Jewish brothers, that you have a full right to live secure and peaceful lives with equal rights wherever you desire, including here in France.”
Then he added, “these days we are blessed with another privilege, a privilege that didn’t exist for generations of Jews – the privilege to join their brothers and sisters in their historic homeland of Israel.”
The crowd erupted in cheers and chants of “Am Yisrael Chai” (the people of Israel lives).
The ceremony in the central Paris synagogue, a massive Romanesque structure, started with an organ-accompanied version of the Jewish hymn “Adon Olam,” followed by the recitation of psalms.
Teenagers in the yellow uniform of the French Scouts movement lined the entrance of the long walk to the podium.
At one point, some youths began shouting “Vive la Israel,” to which others replied “Vive la France.”
A couple of French flags hung off the balconies.
The ceremony in the synagogue capped a day in which Netanyahu held a number of informal meetings with a wide array of world leaders.
When he arrived in Paris, he went to the French president’s residence at the Élysée Palace, where some 60 world leaders waited to take part in the march against terrorism in central Paris, which drew over an estimated million people.
Netanyahu rode the short distance to the march sitting on the bus next to Hollande. On the way back he sat next to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Jordan’s King Abdullah was also on the ride.
During the day, Netanyahu mingled briefly with the leaders of Finland, the Netherlands, Georgia, Ireland, and the head of the OECD, among others.
There was no immediate word whether he spoke with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
On Monday, the prime minister is schedule to hold another meeting with the head of the Jewish community in France before his scheduled return to Israel that evening.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, and Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky were also in Paris..