Netanyahu to French Jews: ‘Israel is your home’

PM says jihadists at war with West, encourages Jewish immigration; Liberman, Ya’alon and Lapid also urge Europe’s Jews to come

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference held in Jerusalem, December 17, 2014. (Emil Salman/POOL/FLASH90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference held in Jerusalem, December 17, 2014. (Emil Salman/POOL/FLASH90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told French Jews Saturday, after 17 people including five Jews were killed there during three days of Islamist attacks, that Israel is their home.

Four of the fatalities occurred during Friday’s attack on a Jewish supermarket, while a fifth person of Jewish descent, cartoonist Georges Wolinski, was gunned down in Wednesday’s attack on Charlie Hebdo’s headquarters.

“To all the Jews of France, all the Jews of Europe, I would like to say that Israel is not just the place in whose direction you pray, the state of Israel is your home,” he said in a televised statement, referring to the Jewish practice of facing Jerusalem during prayer.

Other Israeli leaders echoed the call to French and European Jews to come to Israel.

And the Deputy Knesset speaker, MK Yoni Chetboun, called on the government to declare France an “emergency target” for immigration to Israel.

The freshman lawmaker (originally from the Jewish Home party, but now with Eli Yishai’s new Ha’Am Itanu party), whose cousin was one of the hostages held Friday in the Hyper Cacher supermarket where four Jewish men were killed, said that in light of the recent events in France, thousands of French Jews are expected to knock on the doors of the Jewish Agency and inquire about aliyah.

Jewish Home MK Yoni Chetboun (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Jewish Home MK Yoni Chetboun (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“Israel is currently not ready to absorb masses of French Jews. In the present intolerable security situation, it’s Israel’s responsibility to make available all possible means to enable the aliyah of French Jews,” he said. Chetboun, the son of French speaking immigrants, is the chairman of the Knesset Caucus for Immigrants from France and French-Speakers.

In his remarks, the prime minister also equated the ideology of the attackers to other terrorist groups throughout the world, asserting radical Islam is at war with the West.

“Further proof that these organizations are branches of the same poisonous tree may be seen in the fact that one of Hamas’s official organs praised the reprehensible murderers in Paris. It must be understood that this is a war against us all of us,” he said.

Netanyahu also extended his condolences to the French people in the wake of the attacks, specifically the families of Yoav Hattab, Philippe Braham, Yohan Cohen and Francois-Michel Saada — the four men murdered during Friday’s attack on a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris.

“All Jews who want to immigrate to Israel will be welcomed here warmly and with open arms. We will help you in your absorption here in our state that is also your state,” the prime minister concluded.

A number of media outlets have reported that Netanyahu ordered a ministerial committee to convene next week to discuss ways to encourage immigration of French and other European Jews to Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett will attend a mass rally on Sunday in Paris in solidarity with the terror victims. A string of world leaders were also set to attend.

Liberman on Saturday said the wave of terror in Europe is expected to continue and that the best security precaution for Jews is immigration to Israel.

“Israel is concerned about two issues: One, the terror attack on the Jewish market came after France already increased its terror alert. Two, this is the third terror attack [against Jews]: in Toulouse [in 2012], at the Jewish museum in Brussels [last May], and now at the kosher market on Friday,” Liberman told Channel 2.

“Europe has not yet internalized that the foreign fighters coming back [from the Middle East] to European soil or those who have connections to al Qaeda or Daesh [the Arab acronym for the Islamic State] are a real, serious threat,” he said.

It is estimated that almost 1,000 French nationals alone have left to join jihadists in Iraq and Syria.

“We have a lot of empathy and we identify with the problems [Europe is facing] but we want to demand that security be significantly upgraded at Jewish institutions. There is a lot of room for improvement,” Liberman added.

Liberman warned that the assessment held by “all security establishments, in Europe, the US and here [in Israel] is that this terror wave will continue. There is always a desire to carry out copycat attacks.”

“The best security precaution [for Jews] may be aliya [immigration] to Israel. I hope that French Jews will start immigrating to Israel in significant numbers,” he said.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon spoke in similar terms, saying that Jews in Europe are under attack and that the safest place for them is in Israel.

“The Jewish community, not just in France, [also in] Belgium and other places, Sweden, is under an attack, a combined Islamist, anti-Semitic attack,” he told Channel 2.

“We knew that if [radical] Islam raised it’s head in Europe, the Jews would be the first to be harmed. The safest place for Jews is in the national home of Jews,” Ya’alon said.

Earlier Saturday, Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid said, “European Jewry should understand that there is only one home for Jews and that is the State of Israel.”

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