PARIS – The United States’ decision to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem is impossible to rejoice over as, at the same time, there were many victims, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday.
Speaking at a joint news conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Paris, Macron said France will not recognize Palestine as a state for the time being because unilateralism creates violence, likening such a step to the US Embassy opening in Jerusalem.
“Experience shows that whether you like it or not, things like that provoke violence in response... this leads to people dying,” Macron said.
France has not presented a peace plan for the region and for the moment has no intention of developing one, he said. Rather efforts must be focused on a framework for regional stability, and that France wanted to help alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
Netanyahu and Macron were meeting for the third time this year. During this meeting, Macron said they “had a long and deep discussion on the regional situation [and] ways to guarantee the safety of Israel” that also included discussion on Iran and Syria.
The French president said France and its European partners believe that the 2015 Iranian nuclear agreement between Tehran and the six world powers was indispensable, although he admitted that the deal is insufficient and not satisfactory.
The US has left the agreement, but France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia and China want to salvage the pact.
Europe pushes back against U.S. withdrawal from Iran nuclear deal, May 11, 2018 (Reuters)
The Iran agreement must be completed with post-2025 measures, a complementary agreement regarding the Iranian ballistic missile program, and measures regarding Iranian activity throughout the region, Macron said.
Netanyahu, who visited Germany on Monday and plans to head next to the United Kingdom, wants to sway these European countries to abandon the deal unless it is changed in such a way that will block its path to a nuclear bomb and eliminate its ballistic missile threat.
“Democracies share a common challenge: radical Islam,” Netanyahu told Macron. According to Netanyahu, the Middle East and Europe are confronted by two forms of radical Islam: militant Sunni, including al-Qaeda and Islamic State, and militant Shi’ite led by Iran.
“Israel and France share intelligence,” Netanyahu said. “I believe these exchanges have saved many lives. We will intensify these exchanges. The greatest danger these days is nuclear weapons in the hands of radical Iran. It is time to apply pressure on Iran that their nuclear plan won’t go anywhere.’’
Netanyahu clarified that he did not ask President Macron to step out of the Iran deal, but that he discussed ways to stop Iranian aggression on the Middle East. “I didn’t ask France to withdraw from the JCPOA, because I think it will be dissolved by the weight of economic forces,” Netanyahu said. “The most important thing is that Iran leaves Syria. It has no business being there. We must block Iran from transferring its army and sophisticated weapons to Syria against Israel, to eradicate Israel.’’
Netanyahu referred to Gaza, emphasizing that the demonstrations near the border fence are violent events, managed and paid by Hamas. “They are using human shields, they want to kidnap Israeli and kill Israelis. They seek to storm into Israel and capture soldiers near the border fence.’’
According to Netanyahu, there are two states that should be denuclearized: Iran and North Korea. “I believe that the Iran agreement did not achieve that goal... The deal gave Iran a tremendous cash bonanza, a tremendous cash machine... They want to bring 80,000 Shi’ite fighters into Syria, not only to attack Israel and ultimately destroy Israel, but also to convert Sunnite into Shi’ism,’’ he said.
Netanyahu thanked Macron for his warm hospitality, stating “These exchanges are very important to advance security and stability in our region. We are natural allies, we share values of democracy and peace.’’
Earlier on Tuesday, while meeting with the French Jewish community, Netanyahu congratulated the 70-year link between France and Israel, stating “This link has been crucial in the early years of the establishment of Israel, when our [continued] existence was not obvious. In fact, it is never obvious, and can always be considered as miracle. But we must act to ensure this miracle. France’s assistance to the young State of Israel, including weapons, airplanes and also other sort of assistance – are part of Israel’s history. Shimon Peres spoke to me at length about these years – he and France should get much credit for that.’’
Netanyahu also referred to Israeli ties with French Jewry, stating, “I am very excited and moved over our 180,000 immigrants from France. We are doing everything, though not enough, to reduce the terrible bureaucracy they are facing, of driving licenses and professional diplomas
. We have already done it with doctors and pharmacists; we are now handling the issue of nurses. But this must also be done to all professions which are recognized in France. There is no logic [in not-recognizing them], and there is no question this should be done. It is even our policy to fight [unnecessary] bureaucracy and legal red tape. We do it step by step, out of love [to the immigrants] and real appreciation.’’
On the issue of antisemitism in Europe
, Netanyahu said, “Facing this phenomenon we must do only one thing: Fight it. This is the policy, not only of this [French] president and government, but also of previous presidents and previous governments. What is important to understand is that this is not about the presence of Jews. Hate of Jews always spreads into larger problems, and this is why other actors must be recruited to this campaign. This is definitely an issue that will come up in my meeting today with President Macron.’’
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post
before the meeting with Netanyahu, CRIF (Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions) president Francis Kalifat said he and his colleagues intend to discuss with the prime minister the friendship between France and Israel, as expressed by the joint cross-cultural season to be launched this evening by Netanyahu. Kalifat added that they will also discuss the situation of the French community.
President of the French Jewish Students’ Union Sasha Gozlan told the Post
that he intends to present to Netanyahu the issue of universities in France and incidents of anti-Israelism antisemitism. Gozlan mentioned that a few weeks ago, an office of the union at the Sorbonne University was sprayed with a graffiti “Death to Israel.”
Netanyahu launched the Israel-France cross-cultural season on Tuesday, a series of some 300 Israeli and French cultural and scientific events that will take place in both countries from the beginning of June until the end of November. Netanyahu opened the Israeli season in France with an exhibit at the Paris Grand Palais, dedicated to Israeli innovation. Many other events will take place in the coming weeks, including music performances, art exhibitions, scientific encounters and other events that will be open to the public.
Israeli Ambassador to France Aliza Bin Noun told the Post
that France and Israel have been working together for over a year to realize the cross-cultural season, which also includes events highlighting Israel’s technological achievements.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe canceled his trip to Israel last week that was intended to inaugurate the French season in Israel. Philippe explained that internal affairs prevented him from making the visit. Macron is expected to visit Israel this fall, for a closure event of the French season.
Paris Police deployed severe security measures around the Grand Palais for the arrival of Macron and Netanyahu. The police refused to authorize a demonstration outside the Grand Palais in support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel. Instead, Pro-Palestinian activists demonstrated Tuesday evening near the Invalides, a few minutes away from the Grand Palais expo.
Netanyahu will meet with French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire before leaving for London. Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.
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