Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman denied on Monday a reported contretemps between Paris and Yerushalayim over Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s participation in Sunday’s solidarity march, The Times of Israel reported.
According to a comment from the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office on Sunday night, the French were initially opposed to Netanyahu attending Sunday’s march on the grounds that his presence would be “divisive.”
This appeared consistent with a report in the Israeli media that said Paris wanted to avoid any reminder of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the rally. Commentators in the French media said that Netanyahu’s participation could divert the spotlight away from the fight against terror to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Netanyahu initially accepted Paris’s wish that he stay away, but allegedly changed his mind after Lieberman and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett announced they would be going.
However, during remarks made at a meeting with Jewish community leaders in Paris on Monday, Netanyahu himself said that initial hesitation over whether to join the march was security-related.
“As soon as the security problem was resolved, thus allowing me to come, it was natural that I come here, it was important that I come here,” said Netanyahu.
Lieberman told Army Radio on Monday that “there was no message from Élysée Palace that Netanyahu was unwanted.”
When Netanyahu’s office subsequently informed the Elysee Palace that he would be coming after all, the French notified him that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was also expected to attend
The size of the Israeli delegation to Paris also became an issue.
The French were irked Netanyahu came with an entourage of two senior ministers and an MK, while most countries sent only one senior official, and created difficulties for the Israeli delegation,according to Ynet.
Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog said on Sunday that he and running mate Tzipi Livni decided not to go to Paris with the “inflated delegation” that he feared it would be perceived as a political move.
While conceding that Netanyahu’s presence at the event was necessary, Herzog contended that the rest of the delegation was “unnecessary and embarrassing.”
Lieberman refuted this, claiming that “based on the community’s reaction, if more would have come, they would have been happy.”
“There’s no doubt there was room here for four representatives,” he added.