World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald S. Lauder on Monday met with French President François Hollande at the Elysée Palace in Paris to discuss the situation of the Jewish community in France in the wake of last week’s terrorist attacks in France, in which 17 people and the three terrorists were killed. Lauder praised the turnout of 3.7 million people at Sunday’s solidarity marches in France as a “strong signal” and also lauded the French authorities’ response to the attacks. He told Hollande that the WJC is considering re-opening a representative office in Paris given French Jewry’s importance, which the French president welcomed. Hollande also pledged that all Jewish sites in France would be protected by thousands of police officers and if necessary by the French military.
Lauder arrived in Paris from Cairo, where on Sunday he conferred with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The two men discussed the situation in the Middle East and the prospects for peace between Israel and the Palestinians and agreed on the need to combat terrorism. Lauder praised Sisi’s latest speech in which he urged tolerance, acceptance of others and combating terrorism, and he highlighted that the necessity of combating terrorism not just through words, but also through actions.
Sisi called to pool international efforts against terrorism not just on the military and police level but also economically, socially and culturally.
In Paris, Lauder also met with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the response to the terrorist attacks and the situation of Jews in Europe.
The WJC president also conferred with WJC Vice-President Roger Cukierman, the head of the French Jewish umbrella body CRIF, and thanked him for his strong leadership in these testing times. “Roger is doing a fantastic job and everyone is proud of how he is handling this difficult situation,” said Lauder.
WJC considers reopening permanent office in Paris
The president of the World Jewish Congress also announced that the organization is considering the reopening of a representative office in Paris and that it will set up a special department to deal with the security for Jewish communities world-wide. “France is a major battleground in the fight to defend our Western values,” Lauder said.
He went on to declare: “We need to make sure that jihadists in Europe are identified and prevented from moving around freely or traveling to the Middle East to join terrorist groups there, or to be trained. All measures, including the temporary confiscation of passports and the imposition of travel bans, should be taken into consideration. This obviously needs reinforced European cooperation, and all necessary resources (police, intelligence and military) must be made available for that purpose.” He welcomed the EU interior ministers’ decision to strengthen controls of the external borders of the Schengen area to prevent terrorists from entering the EU as “long overdue”.
Lauder also proposed the establishment of an EU-wide task force to coordinate action against suspected terrorists. “The recent attacks have obviously also highlighted big failures in gathering intelligence, as Prime Minister Manuel Valls rightly pointed out.
Lauder: ‘Improve intelligence gathering’
“We hope that France will take steps to ensure that intelligence gathering about Islamist radicals becomes more effective, especially in close cooperation with the local Muslim communities and organizations. If necessary, a change in law should be contemplated to allow effective police measures such as profiling to be used, at least temporarily,” the WJC president said.
With respect to the security of Jewish sites, Lauder welcomed that France will provide all necessary resources to protect Jewish life as much as possible, in cooperation with the CRIF and the Jewish community security bodies in France. “Obviously, it is impossible to put a policeman at the doorstep of every Jewish shop. Nonetheless, in the present situation we don’t have a choice but to beef up security at sensitive sites, especially Jewish schools.
“The Jewish community in France is witnessing the worst attacks since the end of World War II. We all must work together to ensure that our freedoms are safeguarded and that the fight against any form of terrorism is won,” Lauder said.