France will stand side by side with Israel to oppose Iranian threat, Sarkozy tells WJC leaders

A delegation of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) led by WJC President Ronald S. Lauder and the president of the French Jewish community umbrella organization CRIF, Richard Prasquier, have had a frank discussion at the Elysée Palace in Paris with France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy, which lasted 90 minutes. “France will always stand side by side with Israel to oppose an Iran that threatens it by developing nuclear weapons,” Sarkozy said at the meeting after the WJC delegation had raised the looming threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. He added that Israel had no better security partner than his government and warned of unilateral actions against the regime in Tehran.

Sarkozy also tried to reassure the Jewish leaders of his unconditional commitment to Israel’s well-being, which throughout his political career had always been close to his heart. He called on Israelis and Palestinians to resume direct negotiations immediately. Asked by the WJC leadership, Sarkozy said that the Palestinian leadership had to fully endorse the principle of ‘two states for two peoples’ and accept that Israel was the nation-state of the Jewish people just as Israel had accepted the right of Palestinians to live in their own nation-state.

Lauder, Prasquier and WJC Vice-President Roger Cukierman also raised the issue of Jerusalem, which they said is the “eternal capital of Israel and the Jewish people” and should not be considered an Israeli ‘settlement’. President Sarkozy said he understood this well.

WJC Secretary-General Dan Diker raised the issue of Palestinian unilateralism at the United Nations with the French president. He warned of the dangers which the Palestinians’ strategy posed, as witnessed by their acceptance as a new member of UNESCO, and said the PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas in his recent UN speech had even denied that Israel is the ancient homeland of the Jewish people. “UNESCO could become a platform to uproot the 3,000-year-old Jewish connection to Israel with a new, fabricated Palestinian narrative,” Diker warned.

Sarkozy explained that the French vote in favor of Palestinian UNESCO membership had been the lesser of two evils but he reiterated that his government would not support the Palestinian move a the UN Security Council.

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