Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threw his weight this week behind the reelection campaign of French-Jewish lawmaker Meyer Habib in the 2017 French legislative elections coming up next month. Habib is running for a seat in France’s National Assembly as a representative of eighth constituency for French residents living overseas in Israel, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Malta, Cyprus, the Vatican and San Marino.
Habib represents the center-right political parties Les Republicans (LR, formerly known as the Union pour un mouvement populaire, or UMP, one of the two major parties in French politics) and Union des démocrates et indépendants (UDI), which are running with a joint ticket this year.
In a two-minute video posted to social media on May 24, Netanyahu, standing alongside Habib, hailed French-Israeli ties, which he said the lawmaker had “been developing methodically,” calling him the “engine” of the relationship.
Habib “loves France, is loyal to France but he also really, really loves French-Israeli ties,” said Netanyahu, adding that Habib was always looking for ways to strengthen the relationship, “which is so important for Israel, but also for France.”
— Meyer Habib (@Meyer_Habib) May 25, 2017
Netanyahu said Habib launched an initiative in the Assembly enabling Israel to bring its decades-long experience fighting terrorism to France, which has been hit with a string of deadly terror attacks in recent years, a majority claimed by the Islamic State.
The French-born Jewish lawmaker, from an Italian-Tunisian family, “is a great disciple of France and the relationship between Israel and France,” and has “continuously acted in the interests of French olim [immigrants to Israel],” Netanyahu said.
“At his urging, [Israel] has recognized the academic degrees of doctors, dentists… and now pharmacists, and we will now move to recognize [French] driver’s licenses and [other academic] diplomas, and more,” said Netanyahu in reference to an ultimatum Habib issued in late 2015 in which he warned that he will call on French Jews to freeze their plans for aliyah unless Israel recognizes academic degrees, so that new immigrants would be allowed to work immediately without having to jump through bureaucratic hoops and pass difficult tests.
Netanyahu indicated that Habib regularly briefs him on issues of importance to the French people and French citizens living in Israel, as “the engine that pushes forward these initiatives not just with me but will all ministers in the Israeli government.”
Israel has over 100,000 French citizens living in the country, more than anywhere else in the constituency.
“I believe in Meyer. I’m sure you do too,” said Netanyahu, who began his address to French-Israelis in Israeli-accented French and called Habib a “good friend,” before switching to Hebrew.
In a post that accompanied the video on Habib’s Facebook profile, the lawmaker expressed his gratitude toward Netanyahu, saying the prime minister had taken time out of a busy schedule some two weeks ago to meet with him and film the message of support while preparing for the visit of US President Donald Trump, who was Israel and the Palestinian Authority on May 22 and 23.
Habib, a close Netanyahu confidant, first ran for parliament and won a seat in 2013. At the time, Netanyahu also sent out a video endorsement.
Habib is running against several candidates for the Eighth Constituency for French residents Overseas including Daphna Poznanski-Benhamou (the left-wing divers gauche, DVG), Florence Drory (En Marche !, the ruling party of President Emmanual Macron), Benjamin Djiane (the sociast party, Parti socialiste or PS), David Acunzo (from the nationalist Union Populaire Républicaine or UPR), Anne Sabourin (from the communist party, Parti communiste français PCF-FDG), Christophe Cesetti (MaVoix or MyVoice), Michael Civit (Mouvement 100%), Nil Delahaye (from the Europe Ecology – The Greens Party, or EELV) et Nathalie Jorge-Laïk (from the far-right Front National party).