(JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the end of World War I “a turning point in the history of Zionism” and said it eventually led to the founding of Israel.
Netanyahu was among 70 world leaders in Paris on Sunday to mark the end of what was known as “the Great War.” The leaders marched to the foot of the Arc de Triomphe, arriving there at 11 a.m. — the exact moment that the cease-fire took effect on Nov. 11, 1918.
Following the event, Netanyahu at a news conference called the march “a very moving and meaningful ceremony to end the First World War, a hundred years to its end, a significant event for humanity.”
He said the end of World War I was a turning point in the history of Zionism because it broke hundreds of years of Ottoman rule in Palestine and led to the eventual establishment of the Jewish state.
Netanyahu said “there is no better evidence of the State of Israel’s standing in the world than the way we were accepted in this event, from the place we received, literally, in the first line of countries. I see this as a great compliment to the State of Israel and its achievements.”
The prime minister said that over lunch he met with “many leaders, almost all of whom were interested in strengthening ties with Israel, who came to me in the morning before the ceremony and now at lunch. Some of the conversations were short, while others were longer and extended. They want to strengthen the political, economic, and technological and security ties with the State of Israel.”
Also Sunday, Netanyahu had what was characterized by a Kremlin spokesman as a “short talk” with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Later at the news conference, Netanyahu confirmed that he had spoken with Putin, saying that the talks were “good and substantive and even very important.”
It was the first time the two leaders had spoken face to face since Syrian air defenses downed a Russian military plane during an Israeli airstrike in Syria in September, killing 15 Russian soldiers. In response, Russia sent advanced S-300 anti-aircraft systems to Syria.
On Sunday afternoon, Macron hosted the inaugural Paris Peace Forum to promote a multilateral approach to security and governance, and avoid the errors that led to the outbreak of World War I. Netanyahu and Macron are scheduled to meet on Monday.