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Thank you very much, Mr President, for those words and your welcome.
I’m pleased to see you and be with you all for what is my first visit to Israel as President of the Republic, a year after the state visit you paid to France. A year ago, we were together. At this point I want to say that my heartfelt sympathy and friendship are with you following the death of your wife.
Mr President, as I pledged to you, I’ve come to Israel to represent France at the Fifth World Holocaust Forum, a few days before commemorating in France, at the Holocaust Museum, the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. We’ll be together tomorrow at Yad Vashem, alongside many heads of state and government, alongside survivors, sons and daughters of concentration camp prisoners, the Righteous and witnesses. I’ve come for Israel, for what the memory of the Holocaust means in your country, I’ve come to promote with you the call of Yad Vashem, a universal call which is more important than ever. You recalled, Mr President, that in many of our countries – and this is the case for France, too – the black shadow of anti-Semitism is spreading, re-emerging, and this anti-Semitism returns whenever democracies are sick and at times of crisis. It doesn’t simply affect Jews but our common destiny and, as far as France is concerned, the whole Republic. Mr President, you were kind enough to recall a moment ago what France embarked on in order to fight with determination and strength against any kind of anti-Semitism in the public arena, be it real or virtual. We shall continue with the same determination and fight, as I’ve already pledged to do, against anti-Semitism, racism and any hate speech which divides our society and repudiates its very foundations.
We also decided to very frankly discuss and raise the issue of anti-Zionism, which is currently very much bound up with the issue of anti-Semitism. Thank you also for speaking so clearly just now. As I’ve had the opportunity to say, anti-Zionism, when it means negating Israel’s existence as a state, is a form of anti-Semitism. Which doesn’t mean it becomes impossible to have disagreements, to criticize this or that action by the Israeli government, but negating its existence today is clearly a contemporary form of anti-Semitism. So yes, we’ve passed laws, taken initial decisions, and others in particular will follow that enable us to fight more effectively against hate speech, including anti-Semitism on the Internet. But beyond this, we must indeed resist, in a way, this erosion of conscience we too often witness, and laws are not enough to change the human soul. To do this we must remember, remind everyone what anti-Semitism led to in Europe – the Holocaust – and as well as remembering, continue to educate and train people. That’s also why I’ve come to you with the Minister of National Education and several young French pupils.
In addition to these issues we have a great deal to build together in many areas: culture, the economy, academic exchanges and new technologies. We’re already closely linked on all these subjects – we discussed this – and we’re going to continue and intensify this work.
We also discussed the peace process, and I thank you for your frankness and also the proactive approach shown. I say to you, and I said this several times: for France today it’s not about arriving with a proposal on the table. I understand that others have sometimes long-awaited proposals. No peace process whatsoever is possible unless the parties present want to build peace. So France will help in what should, and will, be its rightful role.
Finally, we talked this morning – and I also had the opportunity to talk to the Prime Minister – about many regional issues, clearly [including] the Iran issue, and you’re aware of France’s position. We’ll be uncompromising on the nuclear issue. Since 2017 I’ve also wanted us to broaden the international framework focusing on Iran’s nuclear activities so that its ballistic activities and regional destabilization are also subject to an agreement. And in the current context, France will remain committed to ensuring that Iran never acquires nuclear weapons, but also to our preventing any military escalation whatsoever in the region.
You also know what a friendly, favourable view France has of Lebanon and how attached we are to that country, and amid the deep crisis it’s going through we’ll do everything to help our Lebanese friends. And I’m also aware of the vigilance I share about any form of terrorist activity that might be conducted from Lebanon and threaten Israel’s security, especially insofar as it also threatens Lebanese people’s security and peaceful coexistence.
That, Mr President, is what I had to say in addition to your words, as well as reiterating to you here France’s friendship and my personal friendship towards you.
Thank you so much for this welcome, and thank you again for the opportunity to have this discussion.
Translation courtesy of the French Embassy in London