French President Francois Hollande did not want Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take part in the mass unity rally held in protest at recent killings in Paris, Israeli media say.
According to Israel’s Channel 2, Hollande sent a message to Netanyahu, asking him not to participate in the unity march as he believed the Israeli premier’s presence there would be “divisive.”
The report said Netanyahu at first accepted France’s request on Saturday, but he changed his mind later in the day after Israeli Minister for Foreign Affairs Avigdor Lieberman and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett announced they would attend the protest rally in the French capital.
When Netanyahu informed Paris of his decision to join the event, France responded by saying it was sending an invitation to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as well, the report added.
On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of anti-terrorism protesters gathered for the rally in Paris, with world leaders and officials in attendance. The event came after days of deadly attacks, which claimed the lives of 17 people and three gunmen in France.
The report further said the Israeli premier was initially situated in a second row of leaders, but he shimmied his way into the front row, alongside Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, EU Council President Donald Tusk and Abbas.
Angered by Netanyahu’s move, Hollande reportedly made an early exit as soon as Netanyahu took the podium to address a ceremony following the march on Sunday.
An Israeli source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said one of the French concerns was that Netanyahu would take advantage of the rally for campaign purposes and deliver speeches, especially about the Jews in France.