Haaretz reports the astonishing news that Francois Hollande, France’s president, asked both Israel and Palestine not to send representatives to today’s march in memory of the Charlie Hebdo and Jewish terror victims. The French wished to confine the march and political discussion surrounding the terror attacks to the victims and the suffering nation. They wanted to avoid having the complicating issues of the Israeli-Palestine conflict muddy the waters.
Hollande was also reacting to Netanyahu’s previous act of bad faith after the Toulouse terror attack, when he joined the funeral service and publicly called for French Jews to leave for Israel before it was too late. Political leaders don’t forget when foreigners insult their nation, nor did Hollande.
At first, both Netanyahu and Abbas agreed to the request. But then Avigdor Lieberman and Naftali Bennett, both in high election campaign mode, announced that they would attend the rally. This left Netanyahu, at least in his view, with no choice but to defy the French request and insist on attending. Naturally, the French were unhappy:
…When [National Security advisor] Cohen informed [his French counterpart] Audibert that Netanyahu would be attending the event after all, Audibert angrily told Cohen that the prime minister’s conduct would have an adverse effect on ties between the two countries as long as Hollande was president of France and Netanyahu was prime minister of Israel.
Audibert added that his country would invite Abbas. Which left us with this bizarre picture of the President of France at a march commemorating the murder of 16 of his own citizens, locking arms with the leaders of Palestine and Israel. None of those in this picture look happy being in it, least of all Bibi or Abbas. Considering the tongue-lashing Hollande likely gave Bibi, that’s not surprising.
During the memorial ceremony at the Grand Synagogue in honor of the slain Jewish victims, Hollande made a public show of displeasure by exiting just before Netanyahu spoke.
Lieberman and Bennett’s decision to defy the French will and force themselves on a French nation in mourning is the height of boorishness, a quality Israeli leaders appear to have in abundance. It’s like a family funeral which the deceased’s ex-spouse insists on attending, despite the fact that no one wants him there. But it goes beyond thoughtlessness. Lieberman, Bennett and Netanyahu are deliberately exploiting France’s national tragedy for domestic political gain. Israel has become a nation based solely on selfishness and narcissism. I’ve said this many times, but can a country with a political system and leaders so boorish and tone-deaf long endure? Does it deserve to endure?
This is yet another reason why the world is rapidly losing all patience with Israel. It’s why movements of resistance like BDS and the PA campaign for statehood will continue to resonate and gain traction.
Israel has no real foreign policy. It has no broad issues that it pursues. It is almost totally confined to fighting the chimera of delegitimization and getting politicians re-elected. No country in the world, including the U.S., can respect such a fellow member of the international community.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.