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Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu: Do not close down Israel’s consulate in Marseille

Shutting the office will deprive Europe's second-largest Jewish community of services and reward Israel's enemies

Your Excellency, Mr. Prime Minister,

Let me write this letter to you, as an elected member of the French Republic living in Marseille. I hope that, in spite of the heavy duties executed as Prime Minister of the State of Israel and as Minister for Foreign Affairs, you will find the time to read these few lines.

I have been pressed by many people who live in the South of France and who are extremely concerned by a decision to close down the Israeli Consulate in Marseille made by your services.

Aware of the stakes, several actions have been taken and two petitions in particular were launched, one aiming at the general public and the other one from opinion leaders, both available online (French). The closure of this diplomatic representation covering 26 French counties (166,171 square kilometers — eight times the size of Israel) would have genuine damaging consequences.

The closure decision has been explained as a budgetary necessity. Yet, it seems to me that the cost is very low compared to services provided. Let me give you a few examples.

First of all, closure would deprive the second-largest Jewish community in Europe of any consular services, and some 200,000 souls would have no other option but to travel to Paris (800 km) or Brussels (1000 km).

Furthermore, this would undo the leading role which the Consulate has been playing in terms of economic development and as a spearhead of excellence, and I quote “Through its immersion in the regions, the Consulate has enabled establishment of contacts leading to trade agreements, as well as scientific, academic, and cultural cooperation and dialogue, which would have been impossible to carry out without its presence.”

As the local elected member, and in the current security context, the departure from this region of such important diplomatic representation can only be a source of grave concern for me. It is not a stretch to fear that, should Israel decide to leave, other countries might follow suit and decide in turn to close down their consulates in Marseille.

But above all, with the world torn by divisions and rising threats, Israel has always been an intercultural bridge between the two shores of the Mediterranean Sea and beyond, at the forefront of dialogue and solidarity. Some prime examples are the assistance offered by the Jewish State following terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels and Istanbul, or the aid and expertise provided following natural disasters like earthquakes or tsunamis.

The enemies of peace and coexistence will consider this departure as a by Israel renunciation of its leadership role, and as a victory for their cause, and a victory they won for a low price. Because, in fact, very few people will be convinced that budgetary concerns were the true cause of the closure of the Israeli Consulate.

Your Excellency, Mr. Prime Minister, because of your position as statesman, you cannot be perceived as the one who drives a further wedge between the two shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Therefore, on behalf of all the people I represent, let me ask you to rule out any possibility of closing down the Israeli Consulate in Marseille.

About the Author
Hagay Sobol is MD-PhD and Professor at the Marseille Medical School. Very invested in the voluntary sector, he campaigned for many years for intercultural dialogue. As an elected member, he is City district councilor of Marseille (11/12) and Federal Secretary in charge of cooperation in the Mediterranean.
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