President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu practiced out their French Sunday to welcome French President Francois Hollande at Ben Gurion Airport Sunday.
Hollande suffered the Israeli accent, assuming he is like most Frenchmen, who shiver whenever a foreigner tries to pretend he can speak French.
Hollande returned the compliment and told Prime Minister Netanyahu, in Hebrew, that he would “always remain a friend of Israel.”
Netanyahu said, “Vive la France, vive l’Israel, vive l’amitie entre la France et l’Israel” after showering Hollande with praise in English for Paris’ stand against the Iranian and Syrian regimes.”
President Peres went all out and said, “Je suis heureux de vous recevoir en Israel à vous exprimer, au nom de tous les Israéliens, nos souhaits les plus vifs de la plus amicale et la plus chaleureuse des bienvenues. Votre visite, Monsieur le Président, met en lumière et votre attachement à Israel, et l’estime profonde qui lie nos deux peuples.”
The translation, more or less, is, “I am happy to receive you in Israel and to express in the name of all Israelis the kindest and most amiable greetings and warmest welcome. “
Having run out of superlatives, he continued in French, “Your visit, Mr. President, highlights your attachment to Israel and the profound esteem that binds our nations.”
For clinchers, he told Hollande, “The soul of France is equality” and then switched to English to explain, “I can add that the description that ‘equality is the soul of France’ accompanies me almost from birth. That is indeed France. A beating heart that gave to the world three irreplaceable words; liberty, fraternity and equality. The people of Israel owe France a great debt for standing by our side in times of peace and of war. For allowing the development of the Israel’s defensive force. Especially in the first years of the state, when we needed France more than at any other time.
“The gates of the world were closed to the survivors of the Holocaust. The countries that voted in favor of the creation of the State of Israel refused to provide even one gun for our self-defense. It was the France of the ‘resistance’ that broke the embargo which was placed upon Israel and allowed us to bring immigrants to Israel. It was France that stood by Israel’s side during our War of Independence. Enthusiastically, with the support of its citizens, its soldiers, its writers and its leaders France allowed us to defend ourselves as a sovereign state and to build a new society.”
The warm praises that the President and Prime Minister showered on Hollande, and the praise of Israel by the visiting president, contrast sharply with frigid relations nine years ago when then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon openly called on Jews in France to flee anti-Semitism and come to Israel to live.
Things have changed since then, such as the threat of a nuclear Iran even if anti-Semitism remains.
“We are full of admiration for your unflinching stance to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon for mass destruction. Iran seeks to dominate the Middle East with nuclear arms and long range missiles,” said President Peres, sparing Hollande from more ear-crunching French.
But he insisted on concluding in French and said, “Vive la France. Vive Israel. Vive l’amitié entre la France et Israel.”