Secretary General of the anti-mass migration Front National Nicolas Bay visited Israel this week to improve relations between his party and the Israeli government and dispell the party’s checkered past.
Bay made a three-day visit to Israel, stopping in Jerusalem to speak about the new direction the Front National has taken under Marine Le Pen. There, he claimed, “we just want to preserve our identity – like Israel and Trump,” in an interview with Israel’s oldest daily newspaper Haaretz.
The current Israeli government has placed a boycott on the Front National due to past statements made by Jean-Marie Le Pen, father of the current leader, but Bay made clear his intention to change the country’s view of the party.
The Israeli government has instructed all cabinet ministers and overseas officials to have no contact with the party, but Bay was able to circumvent the ban on his visit.
Prof. Aaron Meirov, who has worked for years to build relations between the populist right in Europe and the Israeli government was able to get several meetings with activists and officials, though many ministers denied Bay a face-to-face meeting. Many of those who did meet with the FN politician said they did not know who he was until after the meeting had ended, including the leader of Likud’s youth wing David Shayan who took a picture with Bay.
— Nicolas Bay (@NicolasBay_) January 26, 2017
Bay said: “I came here because of the possibility that Marine Le Pen might win the election. We want friendly ties with all countries, and Israel is one of them. If we win, it would be only natural to think that Israel would change its policy toward us.”
Bay also denied that the party had anti-semitic views, though he admitted, “in the past, the party’s founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen, made provocative statements, but he’s been ousted.”
While some in the Jewish community are still sceptical of the FN, the party does enjoy support from around 10 to 15 percent of Jewish voters in France. “They understand that we’re the only ones who are clearly pointing to the source of the anti-Semitic attacks – the Islamists. Marine Le Pen has already said that the National Front is French Jewish citizens’ shield against these attacks,” Bay said.
When asked his view on the “demand for recognition” of the Jewish state, Bay said, “it is imperative that the Palestinians recognize Israel. A country is borders but also an identity, and the Palestinians need to respect that.”
The trip marks one of several international trips undertaken by Front National officials over the last few months. Last year FN leader Marine Le Pen traveled to the French-speaking Canadian province of Quebec and slammed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s migrant policy.
Earlier this month Le Pen was spotted in New York at Trump tower, though she claimed the visit was not political in nature.
Le Pen is currently on the campaign trail ahead of the French presidential election first round in April, which she is expected to top, thereby advancing to the second round. There, she is likely to face either the independent candidate Emanuelle Macron or Les Républicains candidate Francois Fillon, according to polls.