French Officials to Meet with Israeli and Palestinian Leaders through Project Interchange/AJC and MedBridge

March 26th, 2012


For Immediate Release
Contact: Keren Naveh 052-228-6767

French Officials Meet with Israeli, Palestinian Leaders Through Project Interchange/AJC and MedBridge

(Jerusalem, Israel) - Just days after the horrific terror attacks on a Jewish school in Toulouse, France, a delegation of French political leaders visit Israel to pay respects to mourning family, participate in intensive dialogue and briefings through Project Interchange, an educational institute of AJC and MedBridge Strategy Center.

The Members of the French Parliament represent a cross-section of Conservative French political and opinion leaders. Five of the six French participants are members of the National Assembly (the Lower House of the French Legislature), with the seventh, an advisor to the UMP and former government official, running for Parliament on the UMP ticket.

This is the second seminar being implemented for French political leaders in Israel by Project Interchange/AJC in the past 12 months. Developed for leaders of French President Sarkozy’s center-right party, “Union for Popular Movement” or UMP, this seminar parallels a May 2011 seminar sponsored for socialist party leaders. Together, these seminars represent a concerted effort by Project Interchange/AJC and MedBridge to provide leaders of the two main French political parties with a first-hand understanding of Israel, its diverse and dynamic society, and often-times complicated reality. The trip includes meetings with influential figures across Israel’s political and social spectrums, including senior Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

For this particular seminar, as with the seminar for socialist French political leaders, Project Interchange collaborated with Simone Rodan Benzaquen, AJC’s Director in France, and partnered with MedBridge, a French NGO devoted to enhancing understanding and ties with Mediterranean countries.

Sam Witkin, Project Interchange Executive Director noted, “As unrest in the Arab world continues to unfold, days after the horrific shooting at a Jewish Day School in Toulouse, and as France prepares for national elections, the time could not be more appropriate for an in-depth seminar aimed at familiarizing French leaders first-hand with the opportunities and challenges facing Israel and the Middle East.”

Witkin continued, “This seminar, in the best tradition of Project Interchange, will provide the opportunity for frank discussions of current events with senior Israeli and Palestinian leaders and world-class experts, while helping forge deeper relationships between France and Israel.”

Simone Rodan Benzaquen, AJC’s Director in France, commented, “France has a special relationship with Israel based on common values and beliefs. These Parliamentarians will be visiting Israel with a strong desire to understand the realities facing Israel and the Middle East, and wanting to contribute both to the peace process and to French-Israeli bilateral relations. At a moment when France itself has been faced with a terrorist murder attack against Jewish schoolchildren and against France’s military personnel, it is even more important that the two countries exchange and cooperate on many issues, including those related to the prevention and fight against terrorism.”

Claude Goasguen, Member of the National Assembly (Parliament) and Advisor for the City of Paris, remarked, after the group visited the family of the victims of the Toulouse shooting, “All that we do is show our support to thé families. We will never forget and we will do our best to restore a réal image of Israël.”

Richard Mallié, Administrator and Member of the National Assembly, noted after the group’s visit to Ramallah, “I’m surprised by so much building in Ramallah -it looks as in perpetual revolution.”

Guy Teissier, Chairman of the National Defense and Armed Forces Commission in the French National Assembly and Mayor of Marseille noted, “I am very happy to be participating in this trip to Israel and would like to thank all those who have worked hard to make it possible. The ties between Israel and France being particularly strong, this trip will be an opportunity for me to show our country’s attachment to the State of Israel, an attachment which the tragedy of these past days in Toulouse has highlighted.”

AJC has been engaged in diplomatic exchanges with France for many years. AJC’s decades-long relationship with France began shortly after the Second World War, when an office was established in Paris.

In 2006, Project Interchange and the CRIF, a French-Jewish umbrella group, collaborated in sending a delegation to Israel of high-level members of French President Nicholas Sarkozy’s political party. In December 2008, Project Interchange sponsored a seminar in Israel for leading figures from France’s large and diverse Muslim community. French journalists, political figures, and academics regularly participate in seminars designed for a range of European leaders.

France has traditionally played an important role in the Middle East and in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have visited Paris over the past year. In addition, French political leaders, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy, played a leading role in helping secure the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who holds dual Israeli and French citizenship, and was captured and recently released after being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza for five years.

French Political Leaders on the Project Interchange/AJC seminar in Israel include:
Guy Teissier: Chairman of the National Defense and Armed Forces Commission, Mayor of Marseille, and Member of the National Assembly (Parliament)
Richard Mallié: Administrator and Member of the National Assembly (Parliament)
Eric Raoult: Member of the National Assembly (Parliament) and Mayor of Raincy, Seine-Saint Denis
Valérie Boyer: Member of the National Assembly (Parliament) and Deputy Mayor of Marseille
Claude Goasguen: Member of the National Assembly (Parliament) and Advisor for the City of Paris
Clement Menet: President and founder of Mazarin Council, a political consulting firm

# # #

Project Interchange, an educational institute of AJC (American Jewish Committee), conducts seminars in Israel for current and emerging United States and international leaders. Since 1982, Project Interchange has brought over 5,800 influential figures to Israel from more than 68 countries, offering them broad exposure to complex regional issues.