PARIS (JTA) — Israeli President Shimon Peres criticized Syria and Iran during a visit to Paris.
Peres arrived Monday to discuss the Middle East peace process and the Iranian nuclear threat with French leaders. On Thursday, he and Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe will inaugurate a new square near the Seine River, in the central part of the French capital, to be dubbed the Ben Gurion Esplanade.
At the start of a meeting Monday with Prime Minister Francois Fillon, Peres addressed the threats emanating from Syria and Iran.
“Syria continues its doublespeak," the Israeli leader said. "On the one hand it speaks about peace, and on the other hand it passes sophisticated Scud missiles to Hezbollah that threaten Israel. The transfer of arms from Syria to Hezbollah and Syria’s support of terrorist organizations does not square with its declarations of seeking peace."
On Iran, Peres said that “As Jews who experienced the Holocaust, the people of Israel cannot remain indifferent to Iran’s desire to develop nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons in the hands of a fascist government like Iran present a tangible threat to global peace. If Hitler had nuclear weapons, we would not sit here today."
Also Monday, some 200 pro-Palestinian activists and Communist Party members protested against the creation of the new promenade, and called Israel and its first prime minister "assassins."
Leaders of the anti-Israel activists have been unsuccessful in trying to persuade Delanoe to abandon plans for naming the new square, arguing that it is unfair not to give a similar honor to Palestinian leaders, such as the late Yasser Arafat. They have promised to continue protesting on Thursday.
Delanoe defended the City Council’s 2008 decision to honor Ben Gurion because of his "courage" in pushing for "peace rather than territories," according to French reports.