Peres to attend Paris memorial for Mercaz Harav victims

After the massacre at Jerusalem's Mercaz Harav on Thursday, French Jewish community leaders decided to hold a memorial service for the victims.

Peres 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Peres 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
President Shimon Peres leaves for Paris on Monday morning for his second state visit. When Peres was planning his four-day itinerary, it did not include a prayer service in the Great Synagogue of Paris. But after the massacre at Jerusalem's Mercaz Harav on Thursday, French Jewish community leaders decided to hold a memorial service for the victims, and it was taken for granted that the president of Israel would attend. Peres will be in France as the guest of President Nicolas Sarkozy, and will be given a 100-member escort of mounted and motorcycle police along the Champs Elysees. According to Beit Hanassi, he is the first head of state to be hosted by Sarkozy since the latter took office last May. Peres will also meet with Prime Minister Francois Fillon, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, Senate President Christian Poncelet, heads of the Jewish community and leading scientists and researchers. In his talks with French officials, Peres will focus on the Iranian nuclear program and the threat it poses to the world; the terrorist aspect of Islamic fundamentalism, especially as expressed by Hizbullah and Hamas; the release from Lebanon and Gaza of the three IDF soldiers abducted in 2006; and the continued strategic alliance between Israel and France in the political, security, scientific, economic and cultural spheres. The talks on the bilateral strategic alliance come against the backdrop of Sarkozy's initiative to establish a strong European coalition to thwart Iran's nuclear plans through severe sanction on all levels, especially economic and scientific. Together with Kouchner, Peres will open an exhibition devoted to Israel's 60 years of statehood. The exhibition includes previously classified and never before published documents pertaining to political and security relations between France and Israel. He will also officially open the French International Book Fair on Thursday, at which Israel will be the featured country, despite threats of boycott by Arab countries. Sarkozy was to have joined Peres, but he will be at a two-day European Union summit in Brussels. Peres's official sendoff at Beit Hanassi on Monday will be attended by Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik, who will be acting president while Peres is abroad. Judging by the number of trips that Peres has planned for this year, Itzik will be acting president quite often. One of Peres's last official duties on Sunday was to host Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolianek. The two men have met before and displayed a warm affinity for each other. Topolianek had come from Jordan, where he met with King Abdullah II and Jordanian Prime Minister Nader al-Dahabi, who gave him to understand that Jordan and Israel were interested in engaging in joint ventures that would help to promote peace. Czech-Israel relations go back to before the creation of the state. Czechoslovakia was willing to sell aircraft, weapons and ammunition to the Jewish Agency in 1947, and continued with such sales till almost the end of 1949. It also trained Israeli pilots and ground crews. Peres also met with Prime Minister Olmert on Sunday night.