PARIS — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to fly on Thursday to Paris to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron. The visit is expected to last two days and comes amid a wave of escalation between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as a suspected Israeli drone attack inside Iran on Sunday morning.
The attack inside Iran on Sunday targeted a military factory in Isfahan. US officials told Reuters that Israel appears to be behind the drone strike.
Netanyahu's visit to France will would be the first since his return to power in November. The Israeli Prime Minister and Macron spoke on Sunday following the attacks in Jerusalem that left nine Israelis killed.
Netanyahu thanked Macron for his condolences and for sharing in the bereavement of the families. A statement issued by Netanyahu’s office said both leaders condemned Iran's participation in harming innocent civilians in Ukraine, clearly referring to Iran's drone supplies to Russia. The statement further said the two leaders agreed to meet soon as part of the continual dialogue between Israel and France.
France has been one of the leading countries in Europe criticizing the Iranian breach of human rights, and a broker with the Palestinians. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited Paris and met Macron last July.
Israel’s Ambassador to France Yael German resigned her position last month, right after Netanyahu assembled his majority coalition. German is considered a close ally of opposition leader Yair Lapid and served as health minister on behalf of his Yesh Atid party. She will still be in Paris when Netanyahu arrives.
“Sadly, the government you established and lead includes representatives of parties whose extreme positions are expressed in its guidelines, in its policies and in statements on legislation — illegitimate legislation in my eyes — it intends to pass,” wrote German in her December resignation letter, adding she is unable “to lie to myself and continue to represent policies that are so radically different from what I believe in.”
Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen has spoken with several European foreign ministers since taking office but has yet to speak with his French counterpart, Catherine Colonna.
The last Israeli prime minister to meet with Macron was Lapid, who traveled to Paris last July. Speaking at a joint press conference with Macron, Lapid highlighted the strategic partnership, and added that Israel and France may have disagreements about the content of a future nuclear deal with Iran but do not disagree on preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Paris had reportedly been instrumental in Israel reaching an agreement with Lebanon over their maritime border. At the time, Lapid thanked both President Joe Biden and Macron for facilitating the deal.