President Reuven Rivlin, in remarks as host of the dinner, urged that the point of the Holocaust forum not be lost in the noise of such nationalist-tinged disputes. “The role of political leaders is to shape the future,” he said. “Leave history for the historians.”
“I hope and pray that from this room, the message will go out to every country on earth: that the leaders of the world will stand united, will stand united together in the fight against racism, anti-Semitism and extremism,” Mr. Rivlin said. “In defending democracy and democratic values. This is the call of our time.”
Israeli officials worked frantically to cope with the demands of mounting the event, mustering more than a third of its 29,000-strong national police force to provide security and close highways and streets for motorcades, setting no-fly zones over hotels and key venues, and drafting retired diplomats to help manage what the foreign ministry’s five full-time protocol officers could not.
The storied King David Hotel, accustomed to accommodating one visiting ruler at a time, had to manage three kings, two crown princes, six presidents and a governor-general — as well as their senior aides, bodyguards and tasters.
Not everything went smoothly: President Emmanuel Macron shouted at Israeli security officers on a stop at a church in the Old City that France considers its sovereign territory, recalling a similar tussle in Jerusalem involving his predecessor Jacques Chirac in 1996, but tensions were quickly smoothed over on the spot.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who had just been elected to his first term in 1996 and is seeking another one now in what has been a yearlong electoral stalemate — while also awaiting trial on corruption charges — made the most of the chance to show himself meeting with heads of state and pressing the interests of Israelis and Jews.
He quickly posted a video after his meeting with Mr. Macron, saying he had urged the French president to “deal with” the murder of Sarah Halimi, 65, a French Jew who was killed and thrown from her Paris window in 2017. A French court ruled in December that the killer was “not criminally responsible” for his actions. French Jews are a small but growing constituency in Israel.