PARIS - There was little likelihood that France and Israel would see eye to eye on the Iran nuclear deal, which the Europeans support and Israel strongly opposes. But as European businesses — including French carmaker PSA — begin exiting Iran over fears of U.S. sanctions, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu predicts business, not politics, will sink the deal.
"I think the nuclear issue is going to be resolved because economic forces will do their thing," Netanyahu said from Paris. "But the larger issue today is: How do we block Iran's aggression? Its cash machine has been smashed by the possibility of new sanctions, and that's good. But they still are pushing their missiles, their army and their militia in Syria."
Speaking Tuesday at a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, Netanyahu called for European support in curbing Iran's regional influence. He drew parallels between Tehran and Islamic State — both embraced radical Islam, he said, that threatened Europe, as well as Israel.
Netanyahu's visit to Paris follows his talks Monday in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. His next stop is Britain, the third European signatory of the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, whose fate is looking increasingly bleak after U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal last month over concerns it was badly flawed.
The Europeans are scrambling to save the pact, which they claim is the best way to curb Iran's nuclear activity.
Macron said Iran's announcement to boost uranium enrichment did not amount to an infraction of the nuclear deal. He said Washington's decision to back out of the deal offered a disincentive for Iran to stick to it. Macron also suggested the agreement had brought Iran a bigger windfall by unfreezing Iranian assets than through business investments to date.
Macron also criticized Washington's decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem, which was followed by violent clashes on the Gaza border that killed dozens of Palestinian protesters. Ties between French and U.S. leaders have frayed in recent weeks, including over Trump's decision to impose tariffs against European steel and aluminum exports.
Macron said he still had a warm rapport with his U.S. counterpart, but expected "frank" talks during G-7 meeting of industrialized nations in Canada later this week.