Labor leader Shelly Yechimovich showed affinity for her French Socialist counterparts Thursday when she made France the destination of her first trip abroad since she won the party’s leadership race last September.

Yechimovich became the first Israeli politician to meet with French President François Hollande since he took office in May following the victory of his Socialist Party. During the halfhour meeting at Elysee Palace, which Israeli Ambassador Yossi Gal also attended, Yechimovich called on France to increase sanctions on Iran.

“France is a key player in the Middle East and has the power to influence developments in the region,” Yechimovich said.

She congratulated Hollande on his election victory and moves he has taken to minimize the gap between rich and poor in his country. They also discussed the Palestinian issue.

Earlier Thursday, Yechimovich met with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and attended a meeting of the French Socialist Party, which invited her to the country.

Yechimovich did not inform members of her faction that she would be going to France. Prior to the trip, she had not left the country for about three years.

She has come under pressure over whether she will attend the Socialist International conference next week in Cape Town, due to recent problems between Israel and South Africa.

Currently, she is not expected to go. Labor will instead be represented at the conference by former MK Colette Avital, a former diplomat who heads the Labor Party’s international division.

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