It is in Paris that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is making his first visit outside the Middle East since his return to power in December. The theme of Iran and the threats posed by Tehran on several fronts was largely on the agenda of his meeting, Thursday, February 2 in the evening, with French President Emmanuel Macron.
The French head of state thus denounced, after a dinner with his host at the Elysée, ” rushing ahead “ of Iran in its nuclear program, and warned Tehran that a continuation on this trajectory would not remain without ” consequences “according to a press release from the French presidency.
Iran has started enriching uranium up to 60%, well above the 3.67% threshold set by the 2015 agreement that governs its nuclear program and approaching the 90% needed to produce an atomic bomb . In its showdown with the West, Tehran is also threatening to withdraw from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and to expel IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) inspectors from its nuclear sites.
Beyond nuclear power, whose military aims the Israeli Prime Minister has constantly denounced, Tehran is also accused of destabilizing the countries of the region, from Lebanon to Yemen, by relying on local militias.
The Pentagon announced on Wednesday a large seizure of Iranian weapons destined for Yemen, carried out in January by “Western allies” unidentified who would be soldiers of the French special forces, according to the wall street journal.
Change of strategy towards the conflict in Ukraine
“The President recalled that Iranian support for Russian aggression in Ukraine exposed Iran to sanctions and growing isolation”also pointed out Paris.
kyiv and its Western allies have accused Russia of using Iranian-made drones to carry out attacks on Ukraine, causing significant damage to civilian and energy infrastructure. In response, the West sanctioned several Iranian companies and generals.
Mr Netanyahu announced what appears to be a significant change in strategy on Wednesday, saying he is now ready to consider supplying arms to Ukraine. Until now, Israel had taken care to remain neutral, in particular because of the presence of the Russian army deployed in Syria.
This involvement of Tehran in a war in Europe gives Mr. Netanyahu hope “consolidating an anti-Iranian front”, explains David Khalfa, co-director of the Observatory of North Africa and the Middle East of the Jean Jaurès Foundation. In particular, it aims “increased sanctions against Tehran and the complete blacklisting of the Revolutionary Guards”in their civil and military component, an option for the moment refused by both Paris and Berlin, he explains.
Iran, which regularly calls for the destruction of the Jewish state, accuses its sworn enemy of being behind several attacks on its own soil against its nuclear program – which Israel has never acknowledged – or Neighboring Syria, an ally of Tehran, where Israel regularly conducts airstrikes against Iranian interests.
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Tehran threatens to take action “reciprocal” if the European Union decides to blacklist the Revolutionary Guards, the ideological army of the Islamic Republic, as the European Parliament wishes.
Avoiding “the cycle of violence” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
President Macron also expressed the “France’s painstaking and complete solidarity with Israel in its fight against terrorism”, after the attack in which seven people were killed on January 27 near a synagogue in Jerusalem. He recalled the need “to avoid any measure likely to fuel the cycle of violence” and his “firm opposition to the continuation of colonization which undermines the prospect of a future Palestinian state”. For several days, violence between Israelis and Palestinians has caused dozens of victims.
Emmanuel Macron welcomed the “normalization of relations between Israel and several states in the region” but has “recalled that this dynamic will remain incomplete as long as it is not accompanied by a resumption of a political process towards a solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Mr. Netanyahu, who will stay until Saturday evening in Paris, must also meet with leaders of the business community as well as the leaders of the Jewish community in France.
At the head of a coalition combining right-wing, far-right and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties, whose detractors fear an anti-democratic drift, the government of Mr. Netanyahu faces challenge from part of Israeli society.