President Reuven Rivlin warned French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday that if the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah threatened Israeli security, his country would have to take decisive action against it.
“If there is a threat emanating from Lebanon, we will not idly stand by,” Rivlin said at the Elysee Palace in Paris. “Lebanon bears sovereign responsibility for all Hezbollah action.
“Hezbollah is producing precision rockets in the heart of Beirut with Iranian support under the auspices of civilian activity,” he says.
“This activity will likely force us to respond, and, in doing so, drag the entire region into an escalation, which will harm Lebanon.
“France is an influential power in our region and its understanding that Hezbollah is part of the overall Lebanese system is essential,” the president added.
Macron did not respond directly to Rivlin’s comments on Hezbollah, but pledged to continue to fight anti-Semitism, an issue that Rivlin had also raised.
“The Jewish community in France is an inseparable part of French history and I am determined to continue and strengthen our fight against anti-Semitism, which is absolutely opposed to our values and everything our democracy represents. We will never accept any violence or intimidation in our country. We will do everything we can to ensure that anti-Semitism is eliminated,” he said.
Rivlin met on Wednesday with leaders of the Jewish and Muslim communities in France as part of his official visit to the country.
Among the participants were President of the Conference of Imams in France, Hassen Chalghoumi. Imam Chalghoumi has organized delegations of Muslim leaders to visit Israel and Auschwitz. With him was Imam Mohammed Aziziz, the Imam of Marseille, who participated in the rally following the massacre at the Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse in 2012 and who heads AMJF, a Jewish-Muslim friendship league together with Rabbi Michel Serfaty. Also participating were the secretary-general of the Muslim community and many others.
With them were representative of the Jewish community from across France, including Rabbi Haïm Korsia, the Chief Rabbi of France; Francis Kalifat, President of the Crif; Joel Margi, President of the Consistoire; Rabbi Michel Serfaty, Co-president of AMJF; Philippe Meyer, President of Bnai Brith France; Moshe Sabag, Rabbi Moshe Sebbag of the Grand Synagogue of Paris, ‘la Victoire’; and other leaders.
President of the Conference of Imams in France Hassen Chalghoumi thanked President Rivlin for the meeting and said “It is an honor for me as a Muslim to have this opportunity. Today, a flame of hope that has been fading has been lit. Racism and anti-Semitism is rising in Europe at the moment, and this historic meeting is important and meaningful. Unfortunately, Muslim radicals take us hostage, kill in the name of Islam and exploit the Israeli–Palestinian conflict in our name. But there is hope in the Jewish world and there is hope in the Muslim world and that is the young people. The future of humanity is in the hands of the children, and they are the hope for the religions coming together.
“There is a widespread belief that religion is at the heart of ethnic tension. But this is a mistake,” said President Rivlin. “The belief that links Judaism and Islam must be the key to peace, not a justification for violence. Now, when nationalism and religious extremism are rising in the world and in the West, your leadership is vital. What you and the leadership of all the communities say is particularly important at this time — no to anti-Semitism, zero tolerance for racism of any kind.”
According to a report on anti-Semitism in France published in November 2018, in the first nine months of 2018 there was a rise of 69 percent in the number of anti-Semitic incidents in France. Concern about the rise in anti-Semitism led to the launch of a national program to combat anti-Semitism and racism in France some three years ago.
Rivlin began his official visit with an official reception ceremony at the Hôtel national des Invalides, the ceremonial military complex in Paris which is the burial place of senior military leaders, including Napoleon Bonaparte.
The president is in Paris at the invitation of his counterpart, President Emmanuel Macron of France. Later in the day, the two presidents met for diplomatic discussions. In the evening, President and Mrs. Rivlin will be hosted for a state dinner at the Elysee Palace.
The diplomatic relations between the two countries date to January 1949, when the French Republic recognized the State of Israel, and the bilateral relations today are extensive and wide-ranging, a statement from Rivlin’s office read.