It is often overlooked that before the 1967 Six Day War, France – and not the US – was the Jewish state’s main Western ally.
By: Daniel Krygier, World Israel News
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Paris was preceded by deep French-Israeli disagreements concerning the Iran nuclear deal, Jerusalem and Gaza violence.
France and Sweden were the only Western democracies that recently supported a one-sided UN resolution suggestion, initiated by Kuwait, that blamed Israel for the Gaza border violence. Washington vetoed the text, which failed to condemn Hamas’s attacks on Israel.
By contrast, France and Sweden did not support a US-initiated text denouncing Hamas’s aggression against Israel.
In a tweet, Michael Oren, deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office responsible for public diplomacy, accused France of hypocrisy by supporting an “anti-Semitic resolution.”
Deputy Minister: ‘Shame on France’
“Shame on France for supporting it. French government cannot say it’s against anti-Semitism and vote for this anti-Semitic resolution,” Oren tweeted.
The French ambassador in Israel, Hélène Le Gal, responded with her own tweet, accusing Oren of “insulting France.”
It is often overlooked that before the 1967 Six Day War, France – and not the US – was the Jewish state’s main Western ally. Paris provided Mirage warplanes for the IDF’s emerging Air Force and played a crucial role in the development of Israel’s alleged nuclear weapons capacity.
However, since 1967, France has adopted pro-Arab policies that remain in place today. Paris provided Saddam Hussein with the Osirak nuclear reactor that could have paved the way for Iraqi nuclear weapons had it not been bombed by Israel in 1981. Over the years, France has emerged as one of the most vocal critics of Israel in Europe.
In the diplomatic arena, Paris frequently supports the PLO’s positions and harshly accuses Jerusalem for using “disproportionate force” when defending itself against terrorism. France’s credibility is further eroded by the fact that it is threatened by the same Islamist extremism that Israel is fighting.
During the Second Intifada, the French ambassador in the UK, Daniel Bernard, made international headlines by blaming Jerusalem for world problems and referring to the Jewish state as “that shitty little country.” Since then, Paris has tried to improve the tone in its relations with Israel and stepped up its efforts to combat antisemitism in France.
However, as far as Middle East policies are concerned, France and Israel continue to find each other in opposite camps.
France’s relationship with Jews has often been complex. On the one hand, the French Revolution offered civic equality for Jewish citizens. On the other hand, populist antisemitism has always lurked under the surface in French society, as illustrated by the infamous Dreyfus Affair and French collaboration with Nazi Germany during the Second World War.
France is today home to Western Europe’s largest Muslim population, which continues to grow and plays an increasingly important role in French elections. By contrast, the Jewish population in France numbers barely one-tenth of the Muslim population and it is shrinking due to emigration, ageing and assimilation.
PM Arrives in Paris as Leader of Powerful Jewish State
It is unlikely that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will manage to convince French President Emmanuel Macron to abandon his support for the Iran nuclear deal. While Paris may pay lip service to Israel’s security concerns, French commercial interests in Iran is its number one priority. However, Washington’s warnings that it may impose secondary sanctions on countries that continue trading with Tehran could bring France closer to the position supported by President Donald Trump andPrime Minister Netanyahu.
More importantly, unlike Israel’s inferior position during its pre-1967 relations with Paris, Prime Minister Netanyahu has arrived in Paris as the leader of a powerful Jewish state that is fully capable of defending itself against all threats.