One participant at the meeting told the JTA news agency that Sarkozy said the relationship between Netanyahu and his family was "strong" and claimed that his remarks were taken out of context. He also "expressed his firm desire to move beyond the misunderstanding following an off-record conversation.”
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Sarkozy took part in a lunch with leaders of the French Jewish umbrella group CRIF. He “responded to a lot of our concerns,” said Francis Kalifat, CRIF treasurer.
'Strong relationship' - Sarkozy with Netanyahu (Photo: Reuters)
Kalifat said Sarkozy gave the group “certain explanations,” for the recent conversation with Obama, in which both leaders didn't realize they were speaking into microphones that were turned on, allowing several journalists to hear three minutes of the conversation in an adjoining room. But Sarkozy asked that the group not repeat that explanation saying his words were taken out of context.
"The President reaffirmed his friendship and support for the State of Israel from the very beginning of our conversation," Kalifat said, adding: "He wanted to remind us that throughout his political career, he has had a profound attachment to Israel.”
Sarkozy also spoke of his “strong, long relationship and friendship with Netanyahu and his family,” and “expressed his firm desire to move beyond the misunderstanding following an off-record conversation.”
During the meeting, other topics regarding Israel were raised: “We told him about our questions and preoccupations, notably concerning France’s UNESCO vote, and we talked about the Palestinian bid for UN membership,” Kalifat noted, explaining that French Jews were especially worried about the status of Jewish cultural sites on Palestinian territory, which they hope will remain accessible, and “not transformed into mosques.”
The French president “said in a firm manner, that there was no question France would accept that kind of thing,” said Kalifat. “They would do everything to block any downplaying of the Jewish presence and characteristic” of cultural sites, such as Rachel’s tomb.
Concerning a Palestinian bid for UN membership, Sarkozy said France would only support the idea of a "non-member observer state" status for the territories, but under strict conditions that included Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, a return to bilateral negotiations without preconditions, recognition of Israel’s security requirements, and a promise not to submit lawsuits against Israel in international courts.
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