Ne­tanyahu to Paris to meet with Macron

70 world lead­ers join France to mark 100th an­niver­sary of end of WWI

The Jerusalem Post - - FRONT PAGE - • By TOVAH LAZAROFF and Reuters

Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu de­parted Satur­day night for France to join more than 70 world lead­ers gather­ing in Paris on Sun­day to mark the cen­ten­nial of the end of World War I.

This in­cluded Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin and US Pres­i­dent Donald Trump. Ne­tanyahu had ini­tially hoped to hold a sub­stan­tive meet­ing with Putin on the side­lines of the in­ter­na­tional event, but France dis­cour­aged such sidebar talks.

On Sun­day, Ne­tanyahu will at­tend a cer­e­mony at the Arc de Tri­om­phe and a lun­cheon with in­ter­na­tional lead­ers, and will hold a meet­ing with French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron.

Ne­tanyahu is ex­pected to at­tend the start of the Peace Fo­rum, a mas­sive three-day in­ter­na­tional event that ends Tues­day and in­cludes world lead­ers and civic so­ci­ety.

French Am­bas­sador He­lene Le Gal told The Jerusalem Post that the Peace Fo­rum, which her coun­try hopes will be an an­nual event, was de­signed to speak to the im­por­tance of the global com­mu­nity at a time when peo­ple are ques­tion­ing the ne­ces­sity of in­ter­na­tional in­sti­tu­tions.

Pop­ulism and na­tion­al­ism are gain­ing in pop­u­lar­ity, while coun­tries are putting up bar­ri­ers against glob­al­iza­tion, she said.

This past week, the French leader toured sites that once dot­ted the Western Front, from the bat­tle­fields of Ver­dun in the east to the im­pos­ing Thiep­val me­mo­rial over­look­ing the Somme val­ley. There, he and Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May to­gether laid a wreath on Fri­day.

Along the way, Macron has warned of the ris­ing threat to Europe posed by a resur­gence of na­tion­al­ism.

“Na­tion­al­ism is ris­ing across Europe, the na­tion­al­ism that de­mands the clos­ing of fron­tiers, which preaches re­jec­tion of the other,” Macron said in a ra­dio in­ter­view on Tues­day. “It is play­ing on fears, ev­ery­where. Europe is in­creas­ingly frac­tured.”

Trump is not ex­pected to at­tend the Peace Fo­rum.

On Satur­day, the lead­ers of

France and Ger­many held hands and rested their heads against one an­other in a poignant cer­e­mony to mark the sign­ing of the Ar­mistice peace agree­ment.

Macron and Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel in­spected troops from a joint Franco-Ger­man bri­gade be­fore un­veil­ing a plaque ded­i­cated to the rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and re­newed friend­ship be­tween the foes of two global wars.

More than three mil­lion French and Ger­man troops were among an es­ti­mated 10 mil­lion sol­diers who died in the Great War of 1914-1918. Much of the heav­i­est fight­ing was in trenches in north­ern France and Bel­gium.

A Ger­man del­e­ga­tion signed the Ar­mistice be­fore sun­rise on November 11, 1918, in a pri­vate train be­long­ing to the com­man­der of French forces, Fer­di­nand Foch, parked on rail track run­ning through the Com­piegne For­est. Hours later, at 11:00 a.m., the war ended.

“Europe has been at peace for 73 years. It is at peace be­cause we want it to be, be­cause Ger­many and France want peace,” Macron told sev­eral young­sters, with Merkel at his side, re­fer­ring to the peace since the end of World War II in 1945.

“And so the mes­sage, if we want to live up to the sac­ri­fice of those sol­diers who said ‘never again,’ is to never yield to our weak­est in­stincts, nor to ef­forts to di­vide us,” Macron said.

In a pow­er­ful show of unity, Macron and Merkel sat in­side the re­con­structed teak-lined rail wagon in which the peace char­ter was signed, and looked through a book of re­mem­brance. Af­ter each signed the book, they held hands a sec­ond time.

Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau at­tended his own cer­e­mony to pay tribute to Cana­dian troops killed at Vimy Ridge, on the bat­tle­fields of northeastern France.

The US pres­i­dent is sched­uled to take part in a cer­e­mony at the Suresnes Amer­i­can Ceme­tery to the west of Paris on Sun­day af­ter­noon, when he is ex­pected to make for­mal re­marks.

Trump could not at­tend a commemoration in France for US sol­diers and marines killed dur­ing World War I on Satur­day be­cause rain made it im­pos­si­ble to ar­range trans­port, the White House said.

The last minute can­cel­la­tion prompted wide­spread crit­i­cism on so­cial me­dia and from some of­fi­cials in Bri­tain and the United States that Trump had “dis­hon­ored” US ser­vice­men.

The pres­i­dent was sched­uled to pay tribute in a cer­e­mony at the Ais­neMarne Amer­i­can Ceme­tery in Bel­leau, about 85 km. (50 miles) east of Paris, with his wife Me­la­nia. But light, steady rain and a low cloud ceil­ing pre­vented his he­li­copter from trav­el­ing to the site.

“[Their at­ten­dance] has been can­celed due to sched­ul­ing and lo­gis­ti­cal dif­fi­cul­ties caused by the weather,” the White House said in a state­ment, adding that a del­e­ga­tion led by chief of staff John Kelly, a re­tired gen­eral, went in­stead. •

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