Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (L), November 11th, 2018.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
PARIS – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin held an impromptu conversation on Sunday in Paris, their first since the downing of a Russian plane in Syria on September 18.
Moscow claims that Israeli actions led to the downing of the plane by Syrian air defenses, sparking a crisis in the otherwise strong ties between the two countries.
A formal meeting initially scheduled between the two men in Paris was canceled. But the two leaders did manage to talk on the sidelines of a luncheon event at the Élysée Palace in Paris. The Prime Minister’s Office released photos of them, both standing and sitting, that hinted at a warming of ties.
Netanyahu told reporters that the “conversation was very good and to the point; I would say it was very important.” He refused to elaborate any further on the conversation.
He refused to elaborate any further on the conversation. Netanyahu
Netanyahu was one of more than 70 world leaders who converged on Paris to attend a special ceremony at the Arch de Triomphe to mark the 100th anniversary of World War I.
France had discouraged significant sidebar meetings, but Netanyahu still managed to hold short talks and be photographed with significant leaders, including US President Donald Trump, who can be seen with his hand on the premier’s shoulder.
Netanyahu later told reporters that the way he had been received was very significant, noting that he sat next to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and “alongside the president of Italy and the governor-general of Australia. But what was very interesting was [that there were] a number of African leaders who spoke about the importance of cooperation with Israel and the way it could of course help their countries.”
He added that, “Israel is a rising force in the world. If someone needed proof, I would say - come to Paris. "
Late in the afternoon, Netanyahu held a rare public, on-the-record press conference in Hebrew at his hotel near the Arche de Triomphe, to answer questions from Israeli reporters, who focused heavily on the recently issued indictments against his close associates in the "submarine affair."
“Wait to the end of the process," he said, adding this shouldn't be tried in the media.
Halting Iran’s nuclear program and France’s continued refusal to support renewed Iranian sanctions will be a central part of his conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday, Netanyahu said.
He spoke against the European Union’s persistent political attacks and its “hostile” stance against Israel. This is “against their basic interests,” he said.
Israel is Europe’s protective shield in the Middle East against radical Islam, the prime minister said.
“When we protect ourselves, we are also protecting Europe – and Europe should change its attitude toward Israel,” said Netanyahu.
With regard to the Temporary International Presence in Hebron, Netanyahu said that he would consider the call by right-wing politicians to end the organization’s mandate when it comes up for renewal in December.
The prime minister ducked a question about whether the climate was right for construction in the area of E1.
He promised again that Israel would evacuate the illegal West Bank Bedouin herding village of Khan al-Ahmar, noting that he had delayed its destruction in hopes of finding a peaceful resolution with the residents.
With regard to the sudden thaw in Israel’s ties with the Arab world
, as exhibited in Oman and the United Arab Emirates this month, Netanyahu said that Arab countries want the benefit of cooperating with Israel. They admire Israel’s technology and economy, and want similar developments in their countries.
On the issue of antisemitism in the US, Netanyahu said that he called leaders of both the Republican and Democratic parties in the aftermath of the Pittsburgh shooting
“Bipartisan support for Israel is critically important for Israel,” Netanyahu said.
“There is a great issue of antisemitism. It’s absurd, at the start of the 21st century, that there are synagogues that need security,” he said.
Netanyahu said that statements against antisemitism by Trump, Merkel and Macron were helpful.
“I am in Paris,” the place where the Dreyfus Affair occurred, which persuaded Zionism’s founder Theodor Herzl of the need for a Jewish state and for Jews to be able to defend themselves, the premier said.
The best way to ensure a Jewish future is to secure a Jewish state and build a strong relationship with the Diaspora, Netanyahu said.