EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Benjamin Netanyahu’s June 2018 visit to Paris illustrated the complexity of Israel-France relations. On the one hand, there are significant divergences over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Iranian nuclear agreement, exacerbated by the growing US-Europe gap. On the other, there are mutual respect, shared concerns, significant bilateral relations, and a strategic dialogue to help bridge the controversial issues.
Benjamin Netanyahu visited Paris on June 5, 2018 to inaugurate the events of the France-Israel “combined season” marking the 70th anniversary of the State of Israel. His visit highlighted the tight strategic, technological, economic, scientific, and cultural cooperation between the two countries. Netanyahu’s and Macron’s joint press conference following their meeting laid bare significant divergences relating primarily to the 2015 Iranian nuclear agreement and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – but it also pointed out shared concerns and convergences on strategically vital issues such as Iran’s military involvement in the region, particularly in Syria, and its ballistic missiles program.
Macron stressed his conviction, shared by other Europeans, that the 2015 nuclear agreement should be preserved as the best way to continue monitoring Tehran’s nuclear activities. At the same time, he said he does not regard the agreement as entirely satisfactory. He admitted that the deal has flaws, and that it constitutes only a first stage to be completed when it expires in 2025. In addition, he underlined the need to deal with the issue of Iran’s ballistic missiles program as well as its destabilizing military presence in the Middle East, especially in Syria.