Netanyahu in Paris to press Macron on Iran

Netanyahu in Paris to press Macron on Iran
Benjamin Netanyahu hopes to gain French support against Iran, while possibly offering military aid to Ukraine.
3 min read
02 February, 2023
France has agreed that "firmness is needed on Iran", but Netanyahu is seeking concrete commitments [Getty images]

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will hold talks with French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday, hoping to gain support against Iran's nuclear programme but shadowed by an upsurge of Israeli violence against Palestinians.

Israel's Paris embassy said the pair would discuss "the international effort to stop the Iranian nuclear programme".

Netanyahu hopes that Iran's role supplying drones to Russian invaders in Ukraine as well as the crackdown on protests at home will prompt Western allies to drop any pursuit of a revival of the 2015 deal over its atomic drive.

The prime minister has also said Israel is considering sending military aid to Ukraine, apparently dropping its previously more neutral stance over the conflict in the hope of a more confrontational Western position towards Iran.

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By "playing the Ukraine card", Netanyahu hopes to "consolidate an anti-Iranian front" with the West, said David Khalfa of Paris-based think tank Fondation Jean Jaures.

He hopes for "increased sanctions against Tehran and the full addition of the Revolutionary Guards to the list" of sanctioned entities, Khalfa added - a step both France and Germany have so far resisted.

Israel has long accused Iran of seeking a nuclear weapon. Tehran insists its nuclear programme is solely aimed at generating energy.

Siding with Ukraine is not without risk for Netanyahu, as Russian air defences deployed in neighbouring Syria could be turned against Israeli aircraft who carry out occasional raids on Iranian interests there.

France agrees that "firmness" is needed in dealings with Iran, a diplomatic source told AFP, saying its nuclear programme has reached "a dangerous point" and highlighting its role in the Ukraine war.

Netanyahu's visit comes after a drone attack at the weekend on a defence ministry facility in the Iranian city of Isfahan which Tehran has blamed on Israel.

The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed officials, have said that the attack was carried out by Israeli intelligence agency the Mossad, although this has not been confirmed by Israel.

Macron's office said the French leader would also "reiterate (to Netanyahu) the need for all sides to avoid measures likely to feed the cycle of violence" in the occupied Palestinian territories -- while offering what he called "France's solidarity with Israel in the face of terrorism".

Israel has been blamed for a significant escalation of violence in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, following a massacre where Israeli forces killed nine Palestinians in Jenin on Thursday.

The deadly massacre was followed by a shooting by a Palestinian outside a synagogue in the settlement of Neve Yaacov in occupied east Jerusalem, which killed seven Israelis. 

At least 220 Palestinians have been killed in deadly Israeli raids on West Bank cities since March 2022, with 36 being killed in the month of January alone.