France has no intention of walking back its principled support for Palestinian statehood or its voting pattern at the United Nations, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls indicated Thursday.
During a conference call with American Jewish leaders, Valls was asked whether Paris would consider adopting a more pro-Israel approach in international forums in light of the deadly attack on a Jewish-owned supermarket outside Paris last Friday.
Valls did not directly reply to question, saying only that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had nothing to do with the threat on the French-Jewish community.
“You know how much friendship I feel toward Israel. The bond between France and Israel is very strong. Of course we can disagree on one political topic or another,” Valls told members of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations.
“The two things are not related,” he continued, referring to Friday’s attack in the HyperCacher market in Paris and France’s support for Palestinian statehood.
The December 2 recognition of Palestine by the French parliament did not prevent terrorists from attacking France. “They target France because of French values, because we’re active in the Sahel and in Iraq and because we voted in favor of a law prohibiting religious [Muslim] girls from wearing veils at school,” he said. “These groups hate democracy, tolerance, journalists and the Jews.”
‘We have to deal with the issue of Palestine, but I don’t believe that’s the motive that’s leading these young people toward jihad today’ — Manuel Valls
Valls is very popular among French Jews for his adamant support of the local Jewish community and his vows to tackle Islamist terrorism. But he made it clear that Paris would not alter its policies vis-à-vis the Middle East based on homegrown terrorism.
“Even if tomorrow there would be peace between Israel and Palestine, even if there would be two states next to each other, even if there would be no more Hamas tomorrow – there will still be threats from other regions, al-Qaeda or ISIS following a logic that is unrelated to what is happening in Israel and Palestine,” Valls said.
“Of course we have to deal with the issue of Palestine, but I don’t believe that’s the motive that’s leading these young people toward jihad today.”
Valls on Thursday asked his country’s defense minister to keep soldiers deployed outside Jewish institutions for as long as possible.
Valls informed the members of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations, an umbrella group that represents 50 national Jewish organizations in the United States, of the request Thursday during the conference call.
“Today, I asked the minister of defense to prolong for as long as possible the deployment of armed forces around Jewish institutions,” Valls said in reference to the measure, which was taken last week following the attack on the kosher supermarket, which killed four Jews and was part of a series of terrorist attacks that left 17 dead.
Valls added that the protection by 10,000 troops “will remain necessary for many months, as long as there is a fear that not all of the accomplices of the assailants are in custody, and as long as the threat remains.”
In addition to Islamists, which Valls said “feed off the young in poor neighborhoods in France,” anti-Semitism “exists also among a minority from the far right.”
“In some cases, these two are interlinked,” added Valls, who cited the partnership of Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, a comedian of Cameroonian origins with multiple convictions for inciting anti-Semitic hate, and Alain Soral, a far-right thinker who has been convicted of Holocaust denial. They announced recently that they would start a political party.
Last year, Valls issued a call to mayors that led to the cancellation of Dieudonne’s tour of French cities for the anti-Semitic jokes featured in his new show. On Wednesday, Dieudonne was arrested on suspicion of inciting to terrorism for writing a Twitter message apparently in sympathy with the kosher shop’s gunman.
Valls, whose wife is Jewish, has earned plaudits among French Jews for his pro-Israel statements and those against anti-Semitism.