Nothing could highlight the complex nature of the relationship between the state of Israel and Jewish people around the world more than the visit to Paris by Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. It has been reported that the French Presidente was apparently worried that the appearance of the Israeli Prime Minister would distract from the unifying aspects of this French national tragedy and bring in the divisive Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The fact that both Abbas and Netanyahu were at the front of the crowd attests to the truth in this.
The mandate of Benjamin Netanyahu is to govern over Israel, he holds no official role in the lives of Jews outside of the borders of the country. But official role or not he does have a role to play in the lives of Jews everywhere.
The Jews of France have heard the soothing voices of their politicians over and over again. After each terrorist outrage their politicians promised them more would be done, more provision made for prevention yet still they are victims.
Presidente Hollande noted cynically that elections in Israel are coming up. But when Hollande looks at Bibi’s arrival in France as some kind of electioneering he fails to make the informal link between Jews in the diaspora and the Prime Minister of the only Jewish state. In the mind of every Jew in the great synagogue in which Bibi spoke is the knowledge that Israel is here for them without preconditions, without mere kind words, without mere pleasantries.
When they looked up at the bimah, at the Jew, the former commando, the man who lost his own brother to terrorists they saw a man they knew would put his own life on the line to defend theirs. This is why it was the Prime Minister of Israel who received the applause from the crowd upon arrival, this is why it was the Prime Minister of Israel that they all wanted to hear speak. This is the man from the country overseas whose doors will always be open to them. The country where every man and woman of military age will fight against the very same people who attacked them.
During his Paris speech the Prime Minister uttered the following words;
Our shared enemy is radical Islam, not Islam and not just radicals – radical Islam. This form of Islam has many names: ISIS, Hamas, Boko Haram, al-Qaeda, al-Nusra, al-Shabab, Hezbollah; but they are all branches from the same poison tree.”
When he uttered those words the only people in that room he was speaking to were the Jews. For Presidente Hollande (who had already left) they are simply not representative of the world he lives in. The terrorists who perpetrated this most recent terrorist attack were aligned (in their own words) with al Qaeda and Islamic State. They were not Hamas, they were not Hezbollah. Only the Jews in that room would have been able to link the suffering plaguing their community with outrages from supporters of all those groups. Only the Jews would be able to fit together the pieces from Hamas and Hezbollah supporting thugs marauding through Paris over the last Summer with the actions of al Qaeda terrorists from days ago.
In Israel’s declaration of independence are the following words;
We appeal to the Jewish people throughout the Diaspora to rally round the Jews of Eretz-Israel in the tasks of immigration and upbuilding and to stand by them in the great struggle for the realization of the age-old dream – the redemption of Israel.”
Implicit within these words is the message that this works both ways. The state of Israel exists to rally round the Jews of the diaspora. Be it via moral support or the kind of military action that saw Israeli commandos liberate the passengers of an Air France plane when no other government was prepared to intervene. A military action that saved French lives and saw the death of Yoni Netanyahu, the brother of the man giving a speech to a new generation of French Jewry.
Hollande probably sees Netanyahu’s words as an attempt to drag France and all other countries fighting against Islamic State into an alliance to fight Israel’s own enemies. But the message the Prime Minister of Israel came to France to deliver wasn’t for him. It was for the Jews.
It is at times like this that it becomes clear that the Prime Minister of Israel will always be, in some way, the Prime Minister of the Jews. His message will always be;
Israel is with you, Israel is here for you, Israel will always be here for you.