Accessibility links

French President Rebuffed by Sharon in Row Over French Jews - 2004-07-24

French President Jacques Chirac has personally intervened in the diplomatic crisis over Israel's call for all French Jews to move to Israel because of anti-Semitism in France. Mr. Chirac sent a message to Israel saying he wants to put an end to the row, but Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon issued his own statement, refusing to apologize for his remarks.

President Chirac sent a letter to his Israeli counterpart, Moshe Katsav, saying the crisis over Mr. Sharon's comments should be put to an end.

Israel Radio reported on Saturday that the message was hand-delivered to Mr. Katsav by a senior French official.

Mr. Chirac and other senior officials of his administration demanded an explanation, after Mr. Sharon last week called on French Jews to move immediately to Israel because of what he called "wild anti-Semitism" in France.

French officials were outraged by the statement, even though the Israeli leader has also praised the French government's efforts to protect France's Jewish community.

At the time, Mr. Chirac responded to the Sharon statement by saying the Israeli leader would not be welcome to visit Paris any time in the near future.

French officials say they are now ready to arrange a visit, provided Israel gives an explanation for Mr. Sharon's remarks.

But, an unrepentant Israeli leader indicated that no such explanation or apology would be forthcoming.

In response to Mr. Chirac's overtures, Mr. Sharon's office issued a statement saying that Israel reaffirms there is anti-Semitism in France, despite the serious measures the French government is taking.

The prime minister then repeated his call for all French Jews to immigrate to Israel, just as he urges all Jews worldwide to make their home in Israel.