Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised French President François Hollande's “courageous stance” against Iran on Sunday, an indirect jab at President Obama's push for diplomatic talks.
“Zionism was influenced by the values of the French Revolution," Netanyahu told Hollande, according to Haaretz. “Israel sees France as a true friend. France, like Israel, aspires for a stable Middle East that lives in peace and security.”
He told members of his Cabinet that he hoped Hollande's visit could stiffen the resolve of other countries negotiating with Iran. Talks with Iran are being led by the permanent members of the Security Council — the U.S., France, Great Britain, China and Russia, plus Germany.
“This visit is important ... in light of the talks that are being held in Geneva on the Iranian nuclear issue,” Netanyahu said, according to Haaretz. “I hope that we will succeed in convincing our friends this week, and the days after, to reach a much better deal.”
Israel's warm embrace of the French leader contrasts sharply with Israel's intense lobbying on Capitol Hill to get the Senate to pass tough new sanctions on Iran's energy sector. The campaign has put Netanyahu squarely at odds with the White House, which wants to be able to loosen sanctions and has said that reinforcing them now could undercut diplomacy and lead to war.
Netanyahu has called last week's offer to Iran, which had the support of Secretary of State John Kerry, a “very, very bad deal.”
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius echoed those sentiments last Sunday, calling the proposal on the table a “sucker's deal” as he announced his country's opposition. Negotiators are set to try again during a new round of talks starting Wednesday in Geneva.