Intelligence Services Minister Israel Katz.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
PARIS – Relations between Israel and France are back on track, Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz said in Paris on Sunday evening.
Referring to the decision by Israeli authorities to limit ministerial visits to France following the two anti-Israel UNESCO resolutions last October, Katz told The Jerusalem Post that “this period is behind us.” The minster reaffirmed that government officials could now resume official visits to France.
Ever since the UNESCO resolutions ignoring the historic connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem, Israel has limited ministerial visits to France and other countries that supported them. Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman visited Paris two weeks ago, but it was not a bilateral visit and the minister did not meet with his French counterpart. He came specifically to participate at an OECD conference on public health and to present Israel’s expertise in this domain.
Indeed, Katz was the first Israeli minister to pay an official visit in Paris since the anti-Israel resolutions.
The one-day conference organized by the KKL-Jewish National Fund was just one reason he came; the main motivation was to enhance Israeli-French cooperation in the field of intelligence and the fight against Islamist terrorism.
According to Katz’s office, with several meetings scheduled between the minister and French security officials, the visit was approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and was coordinated with the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem.
Netanyahu judged the issue important enough to override any arguments against it.
On Friday morning, Katz met with French Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux and several French intelligence and homeland security officials. Katz was accompanied by Ambassador to France Aliza Bin Noun and Intelligence Ministry director-general Hagai Tzuriel. The content of the meeting was kept confidential, and no press conference took place afterward.
According to Katz, the meeting focused on ways to increase bilateral cooperation in fighting organized terrorism and Islamic State-inspired “lone wolf” terrorism.
He also said that vehicular attacks in Berlin, Nice and Jerusalem demonstrate that terrorism is terrorism everywhere, and that in order to fight it and eradicate it, it is necessary to establish an international coalition.
Katz, who arrived in Paris on Thursday, participated on Sunday in the conference organized by KKL-France, inside UNESCO’s headquarters building, about the status of Jerusalem – a symbolic event that highlighted the complexity of Israeli-French relations.
KKL-France chose this venue to protest the UNESCO resolutions on Jerusalem, and wrote on the conference invitation: “Jerusalem, I can never forget you!” The Paris KKL office stated that “this event will take place at the UNESCO building, the symbolic place of debate on culture and history. KKL calls upon all friends and lovers of Jerusalem, intellectuals, writers, political leaders, community leaders and journalists, to join the event, in order to reestablish the truth.”
Speaking at the conference, Katz said that “as greater Paris is for France, so is greater Jerusalem for Israel, and this is the most just and correct response to the erroneous resolutions of UNESCO.”
A spokesman for UNESCO told the Post
that “the event in question was not organized by UNESCO, but by an outside organization. And so, this event by no means modifies the nature of the decision (on the issue of Jerusalem) adopted by UNESCO’s executive council, which is UNESCO’s governing body and is composed of representatives from 58 member states.”
Speaking at a press conference after the KKL conference on Sunday, Katz said that “France and Israel differ diplomatically. That being said, we share the same values and interests. The French understanding of the terror enemy is very similar to the Israeli viewpoint.”
The minister added that “cooperation between us and the French intelligence and security establishments is excellent... France and its intelligence services are not naive by any means. They grasp fully the situation and know perfectly how to challenge the enemy on social networks and otherwise.”