A French and Israeli flag are seen during a 2001 demonstration in Paris..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday was asked to intercede against the closing of the Israeli consulate in Marseilles, France, just one day after receiving a similar request from a delegation from Philadelphia.
Rivlin on Tuesday met with a 45-member interfaith delegation from Marseilles, France, consisting of Jews, Christians and Muslims, which was organized by the Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France, an umbrella organization of French Jewish organizations.
Martine Vassal, president of the Bouches Du Rhone Region, who led the CRIF delegation, said the people of Southern France were pained by the decision to close the Marseilles consulate, telling Rivlin the move would be harmful to both the Jewish and general communities.
“It will harm us all,” she said.
Rivlin promised to raise the issue with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also serves as foreign minister.
Vassal said that prior to the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, people in her country were not particularly interested in what goes on in Israel, but that, since the attacks, “We see things from a different perspective. We can now identify more with you.”
Vassal emphasized the need for France to learn from Israel about combating terrorism.
“We want to be able to continue to dream without fear of terrorism,” she said.
As a person of Armenian descent, Vassal said she feels a bond with the Jewish people.
“What is happening in France today runs counter to our values,” she declared.
In welcoming the delegation, Rivlin said Israel was concerned by the rise of anti-Semitism around the world, and especially in France.
“The attacks against your community are a painful reminder of the price our people has paid for their faith throughout history,” he said. “Just as we know that you stand with us in facing our challenges, you should know that we, the State of Israel and the Israeli people, stand together with you.”
Underscoring Israel’s obligation to the well-being of Diaspora Jewish communities, Rivlin said Israel’s responsibility to every Jew does not begin and end only in calling on them to make aliya.
“Jews have the right to live in safety and prosperity wherever they choose, and we have a duty to stand up for this right,” said Rivlin, who also voiced his appreciation to the French authorities for what they are doing to protect the Jewish community and commended the French Jewish community for its bravery in the face of terrorism.
Relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Rivlin said: “The Palestinians must learn to understand that it is possible to live with us.
Peace can be fulfilled if we are able to live with open borders, but in order to reach an understanding we have to build confidence. Whether we like each other or not is unimportant,” as long as there is a mutual understanding that there is a confluence of interests and resources, Rivlin stressed.
“We can do it despite the hatred,” he asserted, stressing that the only way for this to happen is through directed negotiations.
“No one can impose on us a way to bring this tragedy to an end. The only ones who can do that are ourselves.”
Defending the right of the Jewish People to return to their ancestral homeland, Rivlin said: “Israel is the only place for the Jewish People to be recognized as a nation, and not just a religion.”