Tuesday, January 13, 2015

French and Israeli Officials Display Some Tensions After Supermarket Terrorist Attack

While most of the media depicted the turnout of world leaders at the Paris march against terrorism on Sunday as a show of unity, there appears to be a continuing tension between French and Israeli officials in the wake of the fatal attack at a kosher supermarket.

First, in a Jan. 12 article, Haaretz reported that originally French officials asked both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to stay away from the solidarity demonstration to avoid diverting attention to controversial issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Originally both leaders agreed. But then when Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett-- both Netanyahu rivals in the upcoming Israeli elections announced they would attend the Paris demonstration, Netanyahu changed his mind. This led French officials to then extend an invitation to Abbas as well.  French President Hollande showed his anger by leaving the Sunday evening ceremony at the Great Synagogue in Paris as Netanyahu was about to speak. (I24 News reports that Foreign Minister Liberman denied that the French asked Netanyahu not to attend the Paris demonstration.)

Additional tensions have been created by the statement of condolence that Prime Minister Netanyahu issued Saturday evening in which he welcomed French Jews to emigrate to Israel, suggesting a threat to Jewish safety in France. (See prior posting.) Even before the terrorist attack, there has been increasing French Jewish emigration to Israel.  Reacting to that earlier trend, The Atlantic in a Jan. 10 article reports that French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said: "[I]f 100,000 Jews leave, France will no longer be France. The French Republic will be judged a failure." Yesterday, according to the New York Times, the French Interior Minister said that 4,700 police officers would be sent to guard France's 700 Jewish schools and other institutions.

Then at the funeral in Israel today for the four victims of the Paris supermarket shooting, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said: "We cannot allow that in 2015, 70 years since the end of World War II, Jews are afraid to walk in the streets of Europe with skullcaps and tzitzit." (The Local).