French President Emmanuel Macron hosted yet another prominent leader when Benjamin Netanyahu came to Paris this weekend. Netanyahu’s visit struck a more serous note than President Trump’s. The Israeli Prime Minister wasn’t in Paris for a parade.
Instead, the occasion was the 75th anniversary of a Holocaust roundup in Paris in which thousands of Jews were arrested and deported to Nazi concentration camps in Eastern Europe. The occasion was also a revival of anti-Semitism in France, a string of terrorist attacks against French Jews, and an exodus of Jews from France (5,000 to 8,000 per year recently, out of a population of around 600,000).
Macron did not dance around these issues, past or present. He acknowledged France’s responsibility for the roundup of Jews. His opponent in the presidential race, Marine Le Pen, had denied French responsibility.
Macron also denounced not just anti-Semitism, but also anti-Zionism. Indeed, he called anti-Zionism “a reinvention of anti-Semitism.”
Macron thereby showed a courage. By connecting the 1942 roundup with contemporary Jewish affairs, and going so far as to invite Netanyahu to mark the anniversary, Macron risked incurring the wrath of the left. Even some French Jewish leaders opposed inviting Netanyahu on the theory that the roundup had “nothing to do with Israel.” That kind of Jewish “leadership” can only accelerate the departure of French Jews.
In reality, as one Jewish leader said, “anti-Zionism has definitely become part of anti-Semitism today.” “It’s a real satisfaction to find someone before us who [understands this],” he added.
Netanyahu seemed satisfied. In the past, he has encouraged French Jews to come to Israel. But there were no such calls this weekend. Instead, the Israeli Prime Minister expressed solidarity with France.
All was not sweetness and light, though. Macron chided Netanyahu over Israeli settlements. He left no doubt that he wants to see a Middle East “peace” deal, and there is no doubt that he would like to play a major role in brokering it. (In this respect, he’s no different than every recent American president including, it seems, the current one.) Part of Macron’s purpose in bringing Netanyahu to Paris — a major part, I believe — was to gain credibility with Israel towards that end.
If so, he may have succeeded. By his actions and remarks this weekend, Macron has put France in the camp of those whose desire to see a “peace” deal, though probably naive, does not seem based on animus or lack of good will towards the Jewish state.