Hosting Macron for breakfast, Netanyahu kicks off marathon of meetings
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World Holocaust Forum

Hosting Macron for breakfast, Netanyahu kicks off marathon of meetings

PM urges French president to increase sanctions on Iran; ‘warm and very productive meeting’ also focuses on Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and Libya

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

PM Benjamin Netanyahu (right) hosts French President Emmanuel Macron at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, January 22, 2020 (Koby Gideon/GPO)
PM Benjamin Netanyahu (right) hosts French President Emmanuel Macron at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, January 22, 2020 (Koby Gideon/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday morning kicked off a marathon of bilateral meetings in the framework of this week’s World Holocaust Forum to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, which is bringing dozens of world leaders to Jerusalem this week.

Netanyahu’s first guest at his official residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem was French President Emmanuel Macron. The two leaders held a breakfast meeting.

“I just concluded a nice, warm and very productive breakfast working meeting with my friend French President Emmanuel Macron,” Netanyahu said in a filmed statement after the meeting.

“The meeting focused on very many different topics — Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Libya and of few other subjects,” he said.

According to a readout of the meeting provided by the Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu called on Macron to increase pressure on Iran, including the imposition of sanctions following the Islamic Republic’s recent steps back from the 2015 nuclear deal and its ongoing conventional aggression.

The prime minister also raised the situation in Lebanon, including Hezbollah’s efforts to produce precision-guided missiles. The two men also discussed Turkey’s recent involvement in Libya.

Furthermore, they agreed to convene a “strategic dialogue in order to continue strengthening bilateral cooperation and to achieve their goals relating to regional matters,” the readout stated.

“That’s a very important change for Israel’s foreign policy. It can help us in many different areas that are very important for our national security,” Netanyahu said.

The prime minister also thanked Macron for his unequivocal opposition to anti-Semitism. Furthermore, he asked the French president to “deal with the issue of Sarah Halimi’s murderer,” Netanyahu said, adding that Macron agreed to do so.

Halimi, 66, was murdered in 2017. Kobili Traore is accused of having beaten her to death while calling her a demon and shouting about Allah, before throwing her body from the window of her third-story apartment. However, a French court ruled last month that he will not stand trial, concluding that he could not be held responsible for the killing because he was in a psychotic state triggered by smoking marijuana.

In a message Wednesday to Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center, which will host the high-profile event, Macron spoke of “citizens of France and elsewhere (who) are targeted because they are Jewish.

“This return of hatred haunts our present time,” he said in the text published by Israeli daily Yedioth Aharonoth. “This fight against anti-Semitism, I lead it every day by tackling it in speeches, in behavior, on the internet.”

He invited digital platforms and public authorities, as well as civil society and individuals, to intervene “to eliminate hateful content.”

“Saying nothing, turning away, is making yourself an accomplice,” he added.

Macron, who was welcomed at Ben Gurion Airport Tuesday night by Foreign Minister Israel Katz, was also scheduled to meet with President Reuven Rivlin and with Israel’s de facto opposition leader, Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz.

Later on Wednesday, Netanyahu will host US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who arrived in Israel with a Congressional delegation of seven Democrats and one Republican.

On Wednesday evening, Rivlin is hosting the visiting statespeople for a lavish state dinner at his Jerusalem residence. There will be three speakers at the event: the president will welcome his guests, Spanish King Felipe will speak on behalf of the world leaders, and leading Israeli historian Yehuda Bauer will deliver an 11-minute lecture on anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.

On Thursday morning, Macron will attend a ceremony at the memorial to Jews deported from France in Moshav Roglit and host a reception at Jerusalem’s International Conference Center for French citizens living in Israel.

The world leaders will then gather at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center for the World Holocaust Forum’s main event.

Speakers there include Netanyahu, Rivlin, Macron, US Vice President Mike Pence, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Britain’s Prince Charles and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Former chief rabbi and Holocaust survivor Israel Meir Lau, Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev and World Holocaust Forum Foundation president Moshe Kantor will also address the event.

AFP contributed to this report.

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