France's Hollande says Netanyahu turned Toulouse memorial into election rally

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a speech which French President François Hollande, left, considered too political during a ceremony at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France on 1 November 2012. (AP - Bob Edme)

Published Thursday, November 8, 2012

French President François Hollande accused Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu of turning a visit to a Toulouse memorial ceremony into a political rally and said the Israeli premier was “obsessed with Iran”, a French newspaper reported on Tuesday.

“It wasn’t right to turn this ceremony into an electoral conference...Netanyahu came to campaign in France, we knew that.,” Hollande said to French daily Le Canard Enchaîné.

Netanyahu was in the southern French city of Toulouse on 1 November for a commemoration of the victims of an attack this March which killed four French Jews.

Hollande said Netanyahu “spoke only of Iran during lunch,” criticizing the Israeli leader for being “obsessed” with the Islamic Republic, which Israel claims is developing nuclear

Israeli parliamentary elections are set to take place in January 2013, eight months earlier than originally planned. With few viable candidates vying for the post, Netanyahu is widely expected to be re-elected.

Netanyahu’s two-day visit included other political gaffes, such as calling on French Jews to emigrate to Israel during a joint press conference with the French head of state on 31 October.

“As Prime Minister of Israel, I always say to Jews wherever they are: come to Israel and make it your home,” he said.

The comment was immediately rebuffed. “The place of French Jews is in France,” Hollande replied.

A series of attacks carried out by French Islamist Mohammed Merah in the Toulouse area rattled France in March. Merah killed three paratroopers, all of North-African descent, over the course of several days. His attacks culminated on 19 March with the deaths of four French Jews, three of them children. Merah was killed by a police sniper three days later after a 30-hour siege of his apartment by the police.



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