Netanyahu offers sanctuary in Israel to French Jews shaken by Paris terror attacks
French Jews who feel endangered by terrorism can find sanctuary in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said as he flew to Paris for ceremonies mourning victims of last week’s attacks by suspected Islamist gunmen.
Netanyahu urged global action to combat “radical Islam” before meeting with French President Francois Hollande and other world leaders who had also traveled to Paris to attend a rally Sunday commemorating the 17 French citizens killed, including four Jews taken hostage at a kosher supermarket.
“Any Jew who wants to come to Israel will be received with open arms,” Netanyahu told reporters aboard his flight. France has the largest Jewish community in Europe, estimated by Israeli officials at 600,000.
French Jews have been moving to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other Israeli cities amid growing fears they are no longer safe at home. The numbers jumped from about 1,800 in 2012, the year a Muslim militant killed seven children and teachers at a Jewish school in the southwestern city of Toulouse, to nearly 7,000 last year, according to Israeli government figures.
Natan Sharansky, head of the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency that encourages immigration to Israel, accompanied Netanyahu to Paris and projected that as many as 20,000 French Jews would move to Israel this year, double the forecast before last week’s rampage.
The Israeli prime minister, who faces re-election March 17, has made the dangers of radical Islamic movements a main theme of his Likud party’s campaign. He has also been one of the most outspoken critics of world powers’ nuclear talks with Iran, arguing they let the Islamic Republic buy time to develop atomic weapons, an aspiration it denies.
Netanyahu reversed an earlier decision to skip the Paris ceremonies on security grounds after political rivals announced they would attend. He is due to meet with French Jewish leaders after today’s demonstration.
Three days of deadly violence in the Paris area began Jan. 7 when gunmen killed 12 people in the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine that has offended Muslims repeatedly by publishing cartoons of the prophet Mohammed and was firebombed in 2011. A policewoman was shot dead the following day in a suburb of the capital, and French authorities say the assailant was the same man who took hostages a day after at the Hyper Cacher grocery in Paris, killing four Jews.
The victims of the supermarket attack will be buried in Israel, tentatively on Tuesday, at their families’ request, Netanyahu’s office said in an e-mailed statement.
Other Israeli politicians who traveled to France for Sunday’ss events were Netanyahu rivals Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman of the Yisrael Beytenu party and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett of Jewish Home.
“We are seeing images we hoped we wouldn’t see again, of Jewish businesses being shuttered, of synagogues abandoned, of Jews scrambling to leave France,” Bennett said in a release after visiting the kosher market that was attacked.
“This isn’t an isolated incident,” he said. “This is Islamic global terrorism and the free world must eradicate it.”