hollande, netanyahu and peres nov 2013 370.
(photo credit: GPO / Kobi Gideon)
When French President François Hollande landed in Israel on Sunday, he was
accompanied by an enormous delegation of business leaders looking to strengthen
economic ties with with the Jewish state.
Hollande’s recent bout of
diplomatic support for Israel, most notably on the Iranian nuclear program,
represents a shift in French foreign policy that is reshaping the bilateral
“The fact that we see the French government
aggressively leading the opposition to Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon is
something Israel is not used to,” said Edouard Cukierman, whose Cukierman &
Co. Investment House is Israel’s leading European focused investment
The political realignment “could be an opportunity for [France and
Israel] to reinforce their relationship, and this is a new change. The French
expect a lot from this trip,” Cukierman told The Jerusalem Post in an interview
at his Tel Aviv offices on Sunday.
If anyone is in a position to know,
it’s Cukierman; his father, Roger Cukierman, is chairman of CRIF, the umbrella
organization of France’s Jewish communities. His uncle Henri Cukierman is head
of the France-Israel Chamber of Commerce.
Both are part of Holland’s
“If things are not going well in the French economy,
they are really getting a major role in international diplomacy. So obviously
[international] economic issues are part of that,” he said.
delegations members are representatives of the Orange SA telecom company, the
Total SA petroleum company, defense company Thales, and SNCF, France’s
state-owned railway company.
Transportation Minister Israel Katz met with
his French counterpart on Sunday to discuss France’s role in helping fund,
develop and build a light rail system in and around Tel Aviv.
agreement with NTA, the state company now responsible for the delayed light-rail
project, is expected to sign an agreement with SNCF this week.
is also considering adopting a French model of shared electric cars to help ease
the city’s clogged streets and open up ever-elusive parking.
France has traditionally viewed Israel as a market for its products, the
delegation hopes to shift the focus to acquiring Israeli
There may be cultural differences to overcome in that
“French culture is not used to acquiring technology,
that’s one of the biggest challenges when speaking of cooperation
opportunities,” said Cukierman.
“They’re used to established partnership
in the way of corporate R&D, but not the equity investment. I hope the fact
that we have the leaders of these companies here can help that
The changing political relationship is, however, fostering a
noticeable shift within French business dealings with Israel, he said.
think France is more worried about their own problems than the conflict between
Israel and the Palestinians. Plus, the risk associated with Iran has a bigger
impact on them.”
He cites another phenomenon that is changing the face of
the relationship: “Islam in France is not a minor issue, given the way that some
extreme organizations are starting to act in France.”
Israel is not the
only country where France is pursuing closer business ties surrounding its Iran
diplomacy, he notes; it is chasing defense contracts with Islamic Republic’s
geo-political foils such as the Saudis and the Emiratis, who are disillusioned
with the US stance on the issue.