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Netanyahu visits France amid spike in Mideast tensions

PARIS (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to meet France’s president, business leaders and members of France’s Jewish community during a trip to Paris starting Thursday that has angered Palestinian supporters amid a new spasm of violence in the Mideast.

At a dinner at the Elysee Palace, French President Emmanuel Macron plans to share France’s “solidarity with Israel in the face of terrorism” but also stress “the need for everyone to avoid measures likely to feed the spiral of violence,” according to a statement from Macron’s office. The French leader also is offering to help revive long-stalled dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.

Pro-Palestinian activists plan a protest in Paris on Saturday to decry Macron’s decision to host Netanyahu at such a volatile time in the Mideast conflict. The demonstrators say they will also protest prison conditions in Israel for Palestinian militants, including solitary confinement and deprivation of family visits.

Upon departing for France, Netanyahu said Iran and its nuclear program would be “the main topic of our talk” when he meets with Macron.

Macron has criticized Iran’s lack of transparency over its nuclear activities and warned that its support for Russia’s war in Ukraine exposed Iran to further sanctions and growing isolation.

Netanyahu’s trip comes during one of the deadliest periods of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in years. An Israeli military raid last week killed 10 Palestinians, most of them militants but also a 61-year-old woman. A Palestinian shooting attack a day later outside an east Jerusalem synagogue killed seven people, including a 14-year-old.

The fighting has spilled over into the Gaza Strip. Ahead of Netanyahu’s arrival in Paris, Israeli aircraft struck a rocket production workshop in the Gaza Strip early Thursday, the Israeli military said, hours after Palestinian militants fired a rocket toward Israel.

Macron and Netanyahu spoke Sunday after the fatal Palestinian shooting near a Jerusalem synagogue.

Netanyahu is the head of Israel’s most right-wing government, which is buoyed by ultranationalist parties who have promised to take a hard line against the Palestinians and to ramp up settlement construction in the West Bank. His government is also undertaking major changes to Israel’s judicial system, which has sparked widespread opposition.

While in Paris, Netanyahu said he would meet with French business leaders interested in investing in Israel and representatives of the Jewish community before leaving Saturday night.

Earlier this week, the French government launched a plan aimed at better combating racism and antisemitism, including hate speech proliferating online, and raising awareness about the Holocaust.