(VIDEOS & PHOTOS IN EXTENDED ARTICLE)
The French and Israeli leaders sparred verbally Sunday over the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
At a meeting in Paris with Israel’s visiting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, French President Emmanuel Macron condemned recent violence against Israelis. But he also expressed “disapproval” of Trump’s decision, calling it “dangerous for peace.”
“It doesn’t seem to serve, in the short term, the cause of Israel’s security and the Israelis themselves,” Macron said.
He urged Israel to freeze its construction of settlements on ‘occupied lands’ and called for other confidence-building measures toward the Palestinians.
Netanyahu, who has called Trump’s decision “historic,” said Israel has maintained its capital in the city for 70 years and the Jewish connection to Jerusalem goes back 3,000 years.
“Paris is the capital of France, Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” he said. “We respect your history and your choices. And we know that as friends, you respect ours.”
“I think the sooner the Palestinians come to grips with this reality, the sooner we move toward peace,” he added.
The exchange between the two allies set the stage for what could be a tense meeting Monday for Netanyahu with European Union foreign ministers in Brussels. The Jerusalem issue and the moribund peace process are expected to be high on the agenda.
Last week, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini warned that Trump’s decision “has the potential to send us backward to even darker times than the one we are already living in.”
She also warned that Trump’s “move could diminish the potential role that the United States could play in the region and create more confusion around this.”
The meeting could be a precursor for what seems to be an emerging rift between Israel and the U.S. on one side, and Europe and the Palestinians on the other.
EU leaders, including Macron, have reiterated support for establishing an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. Trump has said he would support the idea if both sides endorse it — effectively giving Israel a veto over any peace proposal.
A senior U.S. official appealed to world leaders, especially in the Middle East, to calm regional tensions.
Acting Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield told Arab journalists that Trump’s pronouncement was merely a “recognition of simple reality” that Israel’s government already is in Jerusalem.
He said the U.S. was not prejudging final-status negotiations about the city’s final borders and expressed hope that world leaders understand the U.S. is committed to moving forward with a peace plan he expects to be unveiled in the new year.
“This is a question of choice: Do leaders choose to speak to their peoples, to their regions in terms that reflect reality or in terms that incite or inflame?” he said. “We hope it’s the former.”
The following is a statement from PM Netanyahu at his meeting with President Macron:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued the following statement at the joint press conference in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron:
“Thank you, Mr. President, my friend Emmanuel.
You are indeed a friend. I welcome the condemnations that you just expressed against the terror attacks against Israel and Israelis. They’re always inexcusable.
We are partners in the quest for peace, security, prosperity and culture. We share so much, so many goals, so many values, and indeed, I think that in the entire Middle East, there’s not a country that stands as the vanguard of the values that France cherishes, identify France—it’s your basic identity—and fights for these values, as the State of Israel.
We cooperate on many areas, including security. As you well know, that cooperation has saved many lives. Israel has provided valuable intelligence to many countries in Europe and many countries outside Europe, that has prevented dozens of horrible terrorist attacks, some of which unfortunately you have suffered. We fight together in this fight against barbarism, and you’re a principle leader in that fight. Across the Middle East as well, your efforts in Lebanon are to be commended; your efforts to prevent the spread of Iranian aggression are to be commended.
Does this mean that Emmanuel Macron and I agree on everything? Not yet, we’re working on it. It’s a question of time.
But it’s a pleasure to see you again, in Paris. Paris is the capital of France. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. It’s been the capital of Israel for 3,000 years. It’s been the capital of the Jewish state for 70 years. We respect your history and your choices, and we know that as friends, you respect ours. I think this is also essential for peace. I think what peace requires is to be built on the foundation of truth, on the facts of the past and on the present. This is the only way that you can build pluralistic and successful future.
There is an effort, continually in UN forums, UNESCO and elsewhere to deny the millennial connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem. It’s absurd. You can read it in a very fine book, it’s called the Bible. You can read in after the Bible. You can hear it in the history of Jewish communities throughout our diaspora, ‘Next year in Jerusalem, next year in Jerusalem.’ Where else is the capital of Israel but in Jerusalem? Where is our Knesset, our parliament? Where is our supreme court, the seat of our government, the Prime Minister’s Office, the President’s office? It’s not in Beer Sheva, it’s not in Ashdod. These are wonderful cities, but it’s in Jerusalem. It’s always been our capital. And Jerusalem’s never been the capital of any other people. I think the sooner the Palestinians come to grips with this reality, the sooner we’ll move towards peace.
This is why I think President Trump’s announcement was so historic and so important for peace. On the quest for peace, there is a serious effort underway now by the United States. And all I can say, as I said related to President Macron, I think, if you’ll pardon the expression, we should give peace a chance, by bringing things to their historical truth, by opening up the possibility of renewed negotiations, with renewed initiatives.
Now, peace requires not only that you recognize reality, but that we also fight aggression. President Macron and I agree that we must stop the main source of aggression in the Middle East which is Iran. Iran is all over the place. It’s in Iraq, it’s in Syria, it’s already in Lebanon, where the president is validly trying to change the situation, taking a real initiative which we appreciate and support. It’s in Gaza, it’s in Yemen. We have to do what we can to stop Iran.
What Iran is trying to do regarding Israel, whom it openly calls for our annihilation, is to do two new things. The first new thing, is to entrench itself militarily with land forces, air forces and naval forces in Syria, with the express purpose of fighting and destroying Israel. We will not tolerate that. We back up our words with actions. The second thing that Iran is trying to do is to put inside Lebanon game changing missiles, precision guided missiles, to manufacture and to add to over 100,000 statistical missiles and rockets, to add precision guided munitions, thousands of them, that could be a great danger to Israel, its cities and its people. We will not tolerate that either.
We look towards responsible leaders, and to important leaders such as yourself, President Macron, to help us roll back this aggression, to help us give peace a chance. Not only with our Palestinian neighbors but in the region as a whole. In the region as a whole, there’s been a c-change, because many of the Arab countries now recognize that Israel is not their enemy but their indispensable ally in fighting the twin sources of militant Islam and its terror: the Sunnis led by Daesh, and militant Shiites led by Iran. There is in this a blessing, because this could help pave the way to an ultimate peace between us and our Palestinian neighbors and between us and the rest of the Arab world.
I don’t give up even on the people of Iran. I speak to them periodically. And I know that they wish to see a change as well. But this is further in the future. Today, our job is to prevent aggression and to give peace its deserved chance. In this, President Macron, Emmanuel, you are an indispensable partner.
I thank you again for your hospitality, for your friendship and for your efforts.”
(YWN / AP)