Netanyahu arrives in Paris for talks with Macron

Prime minister will discuss Iranian nuclear program and its armament of Russian military during war in Ukraine and consolidate anti-Iran front
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will hold talks with French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday, hoping to gain support against Iran's nuclear program but shadowed by an upsurge of Israeli-Palestinian violence.
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  • Israel's Paris embassy said the pair would discuss "the international effort to stop the Iranian nuclear program".
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    ראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו ורעייתו שרה לקראת המראה לביקור בצרפת
    ראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו ורעייתו שרה לקראת המראה לביקור בצרפת
    Sara and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu depart for Paris
    (Photo: GPO)
    Netanyahu hopes that Iran's role in supplying drones to Russian invaders in Ukraine as well as the crackdown on protests at home will prompt Western allies to drop any pursuit of a revival of the 2015 deal over its atomic drive.
    The prime minister has also said Israel is considering sending military aid to Ukraine, apparently dropping its previously more neutral stance over the conflict in the hope of a more confrontational Western position towards Iran.
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    כבאים מול בניין בקייב, שהותקף על ידי מל"ט
    כבאים מול בניין בקייב, שהותקף על ידי מל"ט
    Aftermath of an Iranian drone strike on an apartment block in Kyiv
    (Photo: Reuters)
    By "playing the Ukraine card", Netanyahu hopes to "consolidate an anti-Iranian front" with the West, said David Khalfa of Paris-based think tank Fondation Jean Jaures.
    He hopes for "increased sanctions against Tehran and the addition of the Revolutionary Guards to the list" of sanctioned entities, Khalfa added -- a step both France and Germany have so far resisted.
    Israel has long accused Iran of seeking a nuclear weapon. Tehran insists its nuclear program is solely aimed at generating energy.
    Siding with Ukraine is not without risk for Netanyahu, as Russian air defenses deployed in neighboring Syria could be turned against Israeli aircraft that carry out occasional raids on Iranian interests there.
    France agrees that "firmness" is needed in dealings with Iran, a diplomatic source told AFP, saying its nuclear program has reached "a dangerous point" and highlighting its role in the Ukraine war.
    'Firmness' with Iran
    Tehran also holds several foreign citizens who Western governments see as political hostages.
    Netanyahu's visit comes after a drone attack at the weekend on a defense ministry facility in the Iranian city of Isfahan which Tehran has blamed on Israel.
    The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed officials, have said that the attack was carried out by Israeli intelligence agency the Mossad, although this has not been confirmed by Israel.
    Macron's office said the French leader would also "reiterate (to Netanyahu) the need for all sides to avoid measures likely to feed the cycle of violence" between Israelis and Palestinians -- while offering "France's solidarity with Israel in the face of terrorism".
    Netanyahu visits as fresh violence has intensified between Israelis and Palestinians. Israeli warplanes struck the Gaza Strip early Thursday, drawing retaliatory rocket fire from Palestinian missiles.
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    פיצוצים בעזה, הלילה
    פיצוצים בעזה, הלילה
    Israeli strike on Gaza early on Thursday
    (Photo: Reuters )
    A week ago, a Palestinian gunman shot dead seven people outside a synagogue in an Israeli settler neighborhood of annexed east Jerusalem.
    It was the deadliest attack targeting Israeli civilians in more than a decade and came one day after an Israeli raid in the West Bank killed 10 Palestinians.
    No press conference is planned around the Macron-Netanyahu dinner starting at 1900 GMT at the French president's Elysee Palace office.
    Staying in France until Saturday, Netanyahu is also set to meet French business chiefs and leaders of the country's Jewish community, the Israeli embassy said.
    Judicial reforms planned by the prime minister's latest coalition of right, far right, and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties have raised the hackles of some businesspeople, notably in the financial sector, who have threatened to quit Israel.
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