PARIS (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and French President Francois Hollande were set to visit on Thursday the Jewish school in Toulouse where three children and a rabbi were murdered.
“I am very proud to go tomorrow with you to Toulouse to give our common position against anti-Semitism, against extremism directed at Jews and non-Jews,” Netanyahu said on Wednesday at the Elysee Palace on his first state visit to France since Hollande was elected president earlier this year.
The two leaders spoke about Iran, Syria and peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, they said at a news conference. Netanyahu praised Hollande’s “strong position” against a nuclear Iran.
“We disagree on continued settlement building, but are aware of the fact that peace can only be achieved through negotiations which need to start a soon as possible,” Hollande told reporters. Netanyahu urged Hollande to arrange peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis.
Richard Prasquier, president of the CRIF, the umbrella group of French Jewish institutions, wrote in a statement that the joint visit by Netanyahu and Hollande to Toulouse “will be an exceptionally powerful and symbolic” statement about the shared destiny of those confronted with the “bestial hatred” of men like Mohammed Merah, the 23-year-old jihadist who attacked the Jewish school in Toulouse on March 19.
In Toulouse, the two leaders will meet Samuel Sandler, the father of Rabbi Jonathan Sandler whom Merah murdered along with the rabbi’s two sons, Arieh, 5, and Gabriel, 4.
“I don’t expect much from the meeting,” Samuel Sandler told the radio network Europe 1 on Tuesday. “Seeing my son and grandchildren once more is the only thing I would hope for, and that’s not going to happen.”
Asked whether he wished to see the death of his family avenged, Sandler said: “No, not at all. Feeling angry won’t change anything. We need to talk to the people living in the suburbs,” a term often used to refer to Muslim immigrants living in predominantly Muslim neighborhoods.