Netanyahu, Hollande call for more sanctions on Iran

French president says it is "our duty to put pressure on Iran" but is not planning on military strike "for today."

PM Netanyahu and French President Hollande 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer)
PM Netanyahu and French President Hollande 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer)
More sanctions are needed to halt Iran’s nuclear program, both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and French President François Hollande agreed at a joint press conference in Paris on Wednesday.
“We are prepared to vote in favor of more sanctions, as many sanctions as necessary,” Hollande said.
“It is our duty to put pressure on Iran and to call for more sanctions. We will continue to do so in the coming weeks and months,” he said.
Earlier this month the EU announced tighter restrictions on trade with Iran, adding to already comprehensive international sanctions aimed at forcing Tehran to halt its nuclear program.
Netanyahu landed in France for a two-day visit – his first since Hollande took office in May.
The two men spoke very warmly, with Netanyahu stating that he felt toward Hollande, “an openness and a great friendship.” Netanyahu even made use of his high school French to say a few introductory words.
On Thursday Hollande will fly with Netanyahu to Toulouse for a special memorial service for four Jewish victims of a terror attack, a teacher and three children, who were killed when a gunmen attacked the city’s Ozer Hatorah school last March.
At Wednesday’s press conference, Netanyahu thanked Hollande for his plans to attend the memorial ceremony.
“I’m very proud that I will go tomorrow with you to Toulouse to give our common position against anti- Semitism, against extremism – extremism directed against Jews and non-Jews – and against terrorism,” Netanyahu said.
He also applauded Hollande’s strong stance against Iranian nuclear weapons; even though the French leader clarified that he believes that diplomacy, and not a military strike, was the best way to halt Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
Netanyahu reiterated his message that the international community must set a red line when it comes to Iran’s nuclear weapons.
But when reporters quizzed Hollande about the possibility of a military strike against Iran, the French leader responded by stating: “That is not the scenario that I am planning for today.
“We must make sure that through pressure and later through negotiations, Iran renounces its intention to have access to nuclear weapons,” he said.
Netanyahu responded by stating, “This is our desire too, by the way.” But he noted that Iran posed a danger to Israel, the region and to the world.
He added that in light of Jewish history, “I would not sit by and write off a threat by those who say they are going to annihilate us.” With respect to the safety of Jews in France, he said that the government was clearly fighting anti-Semitism.
“I see not only no tolerance to anti-Semitism, I see a very clear determination to fight anti-Semitism,” Netanyahu said.
He added that this hatred toward Jews came from “very violent quarters” that threaten everyone in France and in Europe.
Hollande agreed that when a French citizen was threatened for being Jewish, “then the whole of the French Republic is threatened.” French Jewish citizens, he said, had a right to live safely in their country.
The two leaders also spoke about the need to rekindle the long frozen peace talks.
Netanyahu said he would be happy to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Paris.
“I am willing to go to negotiations right away without any preconditions,” Netanyahu said.
“If you want to test that, then President Hollande can invite President Abbas to the Élysée, and I’m here, I’m ready. It will take him a day to get here. We can start. From my point of view it’s immediate, and without preconditions,” Netanyahu said at the press conference.
Hollande seemed please by his words.
“That is a wonderful proposal,” Hollande responded.
“I have meet Abbas twice since my election and I hope the third meeting will be held with Prime Minister Netanyahu if he [Abbas] agrees,” Hollande said.
“But the idea is not to lay down basic principles, but to enter into negotiations,” said Hollande.
He added that he hoped both men would come to the table without preconditions.
“Abbas says he has no preconditions. The Israeli prime minister has no pre-conditions,” said Hollande. “Let’s negotiate,” he added.
Netanyahu responded, “President Hollande is free to make a phone call.” Hollande said that he believed a two state solution was best achieved through negotiations.
He spoke against unilateral measures such as the Palestinian bid for non-member state status at the United Nations, a move that would grant them de-facto recognition of statehood.
“It is tempting for the Palestinian Authority to seek from the General Assembly what it cannot achieve from negotiations with Israel,” said Hollande.
His words sounded different from that of his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy, under whose leadership France supported the Palestinian bid last fall to become a member state of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
An Israeli official said he believed that if the vote were taken again this fall, France’s position would be different.
The Palestinians have refused to negotiate with Israel until it stops building in West Bank settlements and Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem.
Netanyahu has refused to heed that request, and has insisted that talks should move forward without preconditions.
“I was ready from the day I was elected prime minister. This was my policy, this will remain our policy,” he said.
The distance between Ramallah and Jerusalem is all of seven minutes. It takes longer to cross a few blocks in Paris. It’s very close. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t sit down together,” Netanyahu said.
“We understand that there will be important steps that Israel will take, there will be important steps that the Palestinian Authority will have to take. The only way we can complete a negotiation is if we begin them,” Netanyahu said.
Hollande’s words in support of a negotiated settlements, was part of a two-day visit that began on positive and friendly note, which strengthen the relationship between them.
Although there were some notes of discord, France does not support a military strike against Iran and it believes that Israel must stop settlement building.
But the two leaders also found common agreement on the need to stiffen Iranian sanctions and to combat anti-Semitism.
A senior official said that Hollande was a true friend of Israel’s.
On Wednesday, Netanyahu also met with the finance minister. He planned to meet his counterpart on Wednesday night.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak was in London hammering home the same message about Iran in meetings with the UK’s defense and foreign ministers.
Reuters contributed to this report.