Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich landed in Paris on Tuesday, but, like his previous visit to France in March, he won’t hold any official meetings with French officials.
The French Embassy in Israel said in a statement that Smotrich's office had requested to coordinate ministerial meetings. However, the Finance Minister’s office claims that no such meetings were requested, as Smotrich is in France for an OECD economic conference.
After his arrival, Smotrich met with leaders of the Jewish community in France. However, even for these meetings, the presidents of the three main Jewish organizations in France, CRIF, Consistoire Central, and "Unified Jewish Social Fund, chose not to attend. Instead, lower-ranking officials from the organizations were sent to the meeting.
Protestors from the UnXeptable protest movement said that: "Hundreds have joined the group in recent days to protest in front of the minister.”
“While the majority of the Jewish community in France is conservative, its attitude toward the current Israeli government, and Smotrich in particular, transcends traditional political camps. It’s unbelievable how much damage and embarrassment he’s causing to Israel's reputation," according to the movement.
After landing, Smotrich visited the Hypercacher Jewish supermarket in Paris, where a terrorist shooting attack took place eight years ago, killing four. The minister had a brief tour of the area with the head of the Jewish Agency's delegation in Europe, Arie Abitbol, and honored the memory of the victims.
"It was important for me to come here, where a terrible terror attack took place in January 2015, claiming the lives of four victims," Smotrich said. "I came here to strengthen and embrace the Jewish community in Paris. Our uniqueness as a Jewish people and a sovereign state serves as a connection to every Jew in the world.”
“Israel’s government is committed to strengthening our bonds with Jewish communities and bolstering Jewish identity. We work to connect all parts of the Jewish people wherever they are. I want to thank the French government for its uncompromising fight against antisemitism and its defense of Jewish communities throughout France," he said.
Later, Smotrich met with representatives of French companies at the France-Israel Chamber of Commerce. The majority of entrepreneurs present at the meeting were Jewish. The meeting discussed regulatory and bureaucratic gaps in the Israeli market and the possibility of expediting processes to restimulate foreign investment in Israel.
The minister discussed the Israeli market’s strengths and emphasized that Israel is ready to accept joint economic initiatives, especially ones that will increase competition in the Israeli market and lessen the cost of living in the country.
The Finance Minister’s office released a statement saying, "The purpose of the trip is to strengthen cooperation between Israel and the OECD and its member states. The minister will participate in numerous discussions on bilateral trade agreements, economic growth and development between the countries.”
“During the conference, the minister is expected to hold several meetings with senior OECD officials, while also meeting with international companies and local investors interested in entering the Israeli market as part of the effort to reduce the cost of living," the statement added.
Smotrich said during his visit that "Israel is one of the most stable economies in the world, and will continue to be so. Israel's macroeconomic data, as well as recent reports by international organizations, testify to the resilience of the Israeli market.”
“We’ve approved a balanced budget for infrastructure and growth. In this visit, we’ll strengthen Israel's excellent relations with the OECD and its member states and continue to develop Israel," the minister added.