JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the site of the Paris supermarket attack less than a day after reports surfaced that the French president asked him to not attend the unity march.
Netanyahu on Monday met with French Jewish community leaders, calling the memorial service the previous night at Paris’ Great Synagogue “a moment of genuine Jewish solidarity,” and the march through the streets of Paris “a moment of general solidarity with humanity.”
He added in defense of his attendance at the march: “There is great significance in what the world saw, the Prime Minister of Israel marching with all the world leaders in a united effort against terrorism, or at least in a call for unity. This is something the State of Israel has been saying for many years. This is what we are saying here today with one simple addition: If the world does not unite now against terrorism, the blows that terrorism has struck here will increase in a magnitude that can scarcely be conceived; therefore, I hope that Europe will unite. I hope that it will also take action.”
Netanyahu also visited the kosher supermarket where Friday’s deadly attack occurred, with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman. No speeches were scheduled for the visit to pay tribute to the four Jewish men who were killed in the attack by a radical Islamist.
Israeli media reported early Monday that French President Francois Hollande in a conversation with Netanyahu on Friday night following the end of the hostage standoff at the Hyper Cacher said he did not want Netanyahu to attend the march for fear it would divert attention from the unity message by adding a focus of the Israel-Palestinian conflict or Muslim-Jewish relations.
According to the reports, when Netanyahu decided to attend Hollande extended an invitation to the Israeli president, as well as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas also attended the march.
Netanyahu originally said he would not attend the Paris march due to security considerations, but reportedly changed his mind after political rivals Jewish Home Party leader Naftali Bennett, and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman announced their intentions to attend.
France will increase security at Jewish institutions, including Jewish schools, with soldiers, the country’s interior minister said.
Nearly 5,000 security forces and police will be deployed to protect the country’s 700 Jewish schools, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuves said Monday during a meeting with parents at a Jewish school south of Paris near the site of last week’s deadly attack on a kosher supermarket, the French news agency AFP reported.
The promise of more protection came a day after French President François Hollande said in a meeting with French Jewish leaders in the wake of the attack on the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket that the country would move to protect synagogues and Jewish schools, including using the military.
Also Monday, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said that Paris kosher supermarket gunman Amedy Coulibaly likely had an accomplice and asserted that “the hunt will go on.”
On Sunday, Hundreds gathered with the leaders of France and Israel to remember the victims of an attack at a kosher supermarket near Paris.
Hollande and Netanyahu joined several hundred members of the Jewish community at the memorial Sunday night at the Grand Synagogue. Hollande did not deliver remarks at the synagogue.
The sister of attack victim Yoav Hattab, one of four Jews killed in an attack Friday at the Hyper Cacher market, urged those gathered at the memorial to light four extra candles each Shabbat “so they may remain etched in our hearts.” The sister, who asked not to be named, also played a recording of Hattab singing the Modeh Ani prayer.
Netanyahu called on Europe and the rest of the world to support Israel’s fight against terror as supporters chanted his “Bibi” and “Israel will live, Israel will overcome.”
“Like the civilized world stands united with France, so it needs to stand with Israel in its fight against the same enemy exactly: radical Islam,” Netanyahu said.
“It’s a short distance between the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, to the murder of Theo Van Gogh in the Netherlands, to the attacks on Jews in Israel, to the murders at Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper Cacher,” he added.
The gathering Sunday evening was organized by the Consistoire, the body responsible for religious services for the French Jewish community. It was held immediately after a march in which hundreds of thousands walked through the heart of Paris in support of democratic values.
The march was originally scheduled as an act of public protest following the slaying of 12 people on Jan. 7 by Islamist terrorists at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a weekly which published many items lampooning Islam.
But organizers later expanded it to commemorate the victims of attacks at the supermarket and a police officer slain in Paris on Thursday.
Netanyahu commended the “remarkable bravery of French law enforcement” during the terrorist attacks and praised the actions of a Muslim employee of the kosher supermarket who helped several Jews escape into the refrigeration room without the shooter’s knowledge. He also reiterated his call to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
“We need to acknowledge that we are facing a global network of radical Islam of hate. I believe this threat will grow when Europe sees the return of thousands of terrorists from the killing fields of the Middle East, the danger will be graver and it will become a grave threat to humanity if radical Islam gets nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said. “So we need to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. We need to support each other in this fateful struggle against radical Islamic fanatics wherever they are.”
Cherif and Said Kouachi, brothers in their 30s, perpetrated the attack at Charlie Hebdo. They were killed Friday when police overtook the printing shop where they were holed up north of Paris. That same day, Amedy Coulibaly, an associate with whom the brothers had been recruited as jihadists to fight in Syria, took more than 20 people hostage at Hyper Cacher and killed four. Coulibaly was killed when police stormed the shop.
According to some reports, Coulibaly had maps of Jewish schools in his car on Jan. 8, a day before the attack on Hyper Cacher, when he killed a police officer south of the city center.
French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia said the march Sunday shows the French Jewish community “is not as isolated as we thought. For months we have been asking where is France? Today we saw France, and the France we saw was a spitting image of biblical descriptions of Jerusalem, where brothers unite.”
The synagogue rally also featured the singing of Israel’s national anthem, Hatikvah, followed by the French national anthem, La Marseillaise.