The Jews of France should prepare plans to leave the country, a prominent American Jewish leader said.
“They shouldn’t flee. But they should have orderly plans in place,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
“People who want to leave, should be able to leave,” he said of the half-million-strong community. “Things here (in Israel) should be prepared. The licensing process for lawyers, doctors, etc., should be facilitated in order to integrate them quickly.”
There are “whole areas in France” today, Hoenelin noted bleakly in a wide-ranging interview, “where the police don’t venture, and where Jews and Christians don’t go.”
While the French government has allocated considerable resources to the fight against Islamist terrorism there, Hoenlein elaborated, the head of France’s main security agency recently told him he lacked the manpower to adequately monitor the threat posed by French citizens returning from fighting with the Islamic State and other Islamist groups in the Middle East. This security chief, who Hoenlein did not name, told him that Cherif and Said Kouachi, the Paris-born brothers who received military training in Yemen and who killed 12 people in an attack on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine on Wednesday, January 7, 2015, had been closely monitored by French security until days before the killings.
“He said that they had guys watching the Charlie Hebdo people up until the Friday before the attack, but he had to switch them to (watch) somebody else,” said Hoenlein. “They didn’t have enough people to allocate to (monitor) all the (potentially dangerous) people all the time… He had a more immediate case. He shifted them to something else. And bingo, you end up under attack.”
Hoenlein, who spoke with The Times of Israel in Jerusalem last week, also issued a series of warnings about the Iranian regime and its ambitions. He said the regime was sure to violate its nuclear deal with the world powers — “You know that they’re not going to keep the agreement. Ask any of the serious people at the IAEA, as we have,” he said. He also charged that Tehran has tens of thousands of agents active in South America, that it constitutes a direct threat to the United States, and that it ultimately seeks world domination. “Read what Khamenei says and writes,” urged Hoenlein. “He is clear about it.”
Unlike some leaders of democracies, Hoenlein said, “dictators tell the truth,” and Iran’s leader has made no secret of his ambitions. “Khamenei has told us all along what he intends to do, and what Iran’s goals are, and what they want to impose: When they say they want to destroy Israel. When they say they want to establish hegemony. When they say they want to spread the Iranian influence. All those things they mean, and they’re doing much of it today,” he said.
Hoenlein also linked the Iranian leader’s threats against Israel with the ongoing wave of Palestinian knifings of Israelis. “Look what Khamenei said on Palestine: He wrote a book in August called Palestina and he said, We’re going to make life intolerable… What do you think these knifings are? It’s exactly a manifestation of what he said in the book. I’m not saying that Iran dictated all of these attacks. But is this such a coincidence?”
Prior to his organization’s week-long conference in Jerusalem last week, Hoenlein and more than 30 American Jewish leadership colleagues visited Turkey, where they met with President Erdogan, and Egypt, where they were hosted by President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
Hoenlein described Erdogan, and his stance on Israel, as an enigma, and cautioned, “I don’t think we should look for instant solutions in Israel-Turkish relations.” Still, he said he appreciated how much time Erdogan spent with group, and thought it significant that the president chose to publicize the visit, and even issued a group photograph of their meeting.
The US Jewish leader enthused about Sissi, and noted that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt had criticized the president for meeting with the Conference group.
“He said when Sadat (made peace with Israel) 40 years ago, no one could have imagined that the current level of engagement and cooperation with Israel would exist,” Hoenlein said. “He said to me earlier: If 30 years ago I would have said to you that 1,000 Egyptian war tanks would enter the Sinai, and Egyptian war planes would fly every day along the Israeli border, and nobody has to worry about a stray bullet, would you have believed me? He made this point several ways during the discussion about the level of (Egyptian-Israeli) cooperation, how it works and why it’s so important.”
In contrast to Erdogan, Sissi “gets Hamas,” Hoenlein continued. “He gets the threat and the need to address it.”
Hoenlein urged the US and the West to help boost the Egyptian economy, including via a return of tourism — “if he can provide the stability.”
Apropos stability and security, Hoenlein revealed, some of the intended participants on the group’s trip to the region “didn’t come because of concern about security in Turkey and in Egypt.”
More than that, he added, some participants dropped out because of fears over security in Israel, where the trip culminated in a week-long conference in Jerusalem that was addressed by many of Israel’s most prominent leaders, including the president and the prime minister. “We had people who didn’t come,” Hoenlein said. “There are a few spouses of leaders of organizations who didn’t want to participate here — I’m talking about the Israel part.”