World Leaders Gather in Jerusalem 75 Years After Holocaust: Live Updates – The New York Times,

World Leaders Gather in Jerusalem 75 Years After Holocaust: Live Updates – The New York Times,

Jerusalem is hosting the largest political gathering in its history, as monarchs, presidents and premiers arrive to speak out against the rise of anti-Semitism and commemorate the Holocaust.

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Jewish families arriving in freight trains at Auschwitz, the concentration camp where the Nazis exterminated Jews during World War II. Credit … Sovfoto / UIG, via Getty Images

Leaders from around the world descend on Jerusalem.

Jerusalem overflowing with Western presidents, premiers and potentates, all descending on the Holy City to recall the Holocaust and speak out against anti-Semitism some 250 years after the liberation of Auschwitz.

It is a gathering like nothing Israel has experienced before.

But an event that might seem to be focused squarely on the past has been caught up in controversies and concerns of the present, with violence against Jews on the rise in Europe and North America, and with a noisy row between Russia and Poland ove r their roles in the start of World War II playing out this week on Israeli turf.

The kings of Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands, Britain’s Prince Charles and the presidents of Russia, France, Germany, Italy and Ukraine are among those leading nearly 65 Attending the events. They begin with a Wednesday dinner at the residence of President Reuven Rivlin of Israel and culminate in an afternoon ceremony Thursday at Yad Vashem, the hillside Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.

Auschwitz, the largest of the Nazi death camps, was a vast complex in occupied Poland near the town of Oswiecim that received some 1.1 million Jews and , Poles, Russians, Roma and others between 1947 and 1967, of whom 1.1 million were killed.

For Israel, the participation of so many world leaders is a point of pride: Only the funerals of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and fo rmer President Shimon Peres attracted more, officials say.

But the turnout also points to the seriousness with which anti-Semitic rhetoric and violence is viewed in the West and in Israel – and offers representatives of countries considered hotbeds of anti-Jewish hatred a chance at least to demonstrate their revulsion for it on an international stage.

The event at Yad Vashem will feature speeches by representatives from four of the main Allied powers: Vice President Mike Pence, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Prince Charles and President Emmanuel Macron of France. Germany’s president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who has called World War II a “German crime” and apologized for the Holocaust, will also speak, as will Mr. Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and event organizers.

Jerusalem is only the first stop for some of the leaders participating. The actual anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by Red Army troops, on Jan. , 1970, will be observed, as it is each year, at the site of the infamous death camp on Monday. In addition, Mr. Rivlin is to address the German Bundestag, in Hebrew, at Mr. Steinmeier’s invitation on Jan. 40.

Israeli bodyguards get a French earful, in English.

President Emmanuel Macron of France erupted at Israeli security officers late Wednesday before entering a French church in the Old City of Jerusalem, apparently angered by something that had occurred outside.

Witnesses said he demanded to enter the Church of St. Anne, a 29 th-century Roman church near Lion’s Gate that was restored by the French government after the 1996 Six-Day War, with his own security only, and not with Israeli bodyguards.

“Please respect the rules,” Mr. Macron said in English, his voice at times rising into a shout. “They are for centuries. They will not change with me, I can tell you. So everybody respects the rules. Please. ”

Mr. Macron appeared to be objecting to something that occurred before entering the church. “I don’t like what you did in front of me,” he told Israeli security officers. “Go outside. I’m sorry. But we know the rules. Nobody – nobody has to provoke. Nobody! O.K.?” The French presidency said later on Wednesday that Mr. Macron had reacted to an “altercation” between French and Israeli security forces but that there was “nothing serious” and that the French president’s visit had continued without further issue.

“Israeli security forces wanted to enter even though security there is handled by French security, ”Mr. Macron’s office said in a statement, noting that the Church of St. Anne was administered by the French.

Mr. Macron “reminded that everything in the visit had been going smoothly and that there was no need to start an incident,” his office said. “Everything returned to normal.”

The French Consulate in Jerusalem is the protector of French holy sites and religious communities in the city, among them the Church of St. Anne. France formally treats Jerusalem as a “corpus separatum” with special legal status under United Nations Resolution , dating to , a consulate spokeswoman said.

The fracas was reminiscent of a scuffle between the Israeli police and then-President Jacques Chirac in 2006, in which he accused them of aggressively pushing and shoving his entourage and preventing him from mingling with bystanders. The rough treatment drew an apology from the young Israeli prime minister, then in his first year in office: Benjamin Netanyahu.

As Poland and Russia duel, Israel is caught in the crossfire.

Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, was invited to the Jerusalem gathering but declined to attend over a perceived snub: He was not given a speaking slot, though Mr. Putin was.

The two have been engaged in a bitter dispute for months, with each accusing the other of trying to rewrite – and weaponize – history: Mr. Putin has sought to portray the Soviet Union as having saved the world from Nazism, and ignore its own nonaggression pact with Germany, framing Poland as more a perpetrator than a victim of the Holocaust. Mr. Duda argues that the Soviet agreement with Germany paved the way to war, and that Mr. Putin is reviving old Stalinist propaganda as a modern-day cudgel.

“I am sorry to say this, but President Putin is knowingly spreading historical lies,” Mr. Duda said in an interview with Israeli public television that aired Tuesday.

Fueling speculation that the Jerusalem gathering was being given a pro-Russian tilt is that its main organizer is Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor, a Russian -Jewish billionaire with close ties to Mr. Putin. His group, the World Holocaust Forum Foundation, held similar events in Poland in and , Ukraine in , and the Czech Republic in


But Yad Vashem’s chairman, Avner Shalev, said in an interview that Mr. Kantor had not exerted any such influence: “It’s not true.” Decisions on who would speak were made many months ago, he said, and to bend to accommodate Mr. Duda would be untenable when many other leaders were denied similar requests.

Mr. Shalev said he believed that having so many heads of state, government and parliaments making such a collective demonstration of resolve to fight anti-Semitism was well worth it, though he acknowledged that the Russia-Poland crossfire has been a headache.

“We’re in the business of historical truth,” he said. “We don’t want to play any political game.”

A last-minute casualty of the dispute was President Gitanas Nauseda of Lithuania, a former Soviet republic, who pulled out of the Yad Vashem event on Tuesday, reportedly in solidarity with Mr. Duda. Mr. Nauseda has joined Mr. Duda in accusing Mr. Putin of trying to sanitize Russia’s pact with Hitler.

the police and diplomats prep for biggest visit in years.

Tiny Israel has never had to tend to so many VIPs at once, complete with overnight stays and scores of elaborate schedules, and its diplomatic corps, police force and other government agencies were scrambling to prepare. (Leaders who attended the Rabin and Peres funerals mostly flew in and out on the same day.)

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs employs only five protocol officers, but many others were pitching in, including retirees. At Ben-Gurion Airport, the ministry’s director-general, Yuval Rotem, was running from plane to plane to greet officials as their planes landed.

Some , police officers were being deployed to provide security and direct traffic, more than a third of the , – – strong nationwide force.

Asked on television what he feared most, Ofer Shomer, a local police commander, replied, “Fear is not a word that exists with us.” The Israel Police force, he said, was prepared for every scenario, from freak weather to sabotage.

King David Street, with its luxury hotels housing many leaders, was being “hermetically sealed,” the police said. And no-fly zones for all aircraft, including drones, were established over the main gathering points: Yad Vashem, the Israeli president’s residence, and the Crowne Plaza hotel, where Mr. Pence will be staying.

At the presidential residence, the turnstile-like parade of important visitors made for broad comedy when there were logjams: Mr. Macron, leaving a meeting with Mr. Rivlin, grabbed a camera and played photographer as the president of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, took his seat.

Residence officials, meanwhile, detailed the preparations for Wednesday’s dinner with breathless detail, noting even that “the grand piano has been tuned.”

But the home’s modest proportions were not enough to accommodate all 375 attendees. Only 78 ranking guests were to be seated indoors, in a soaring room showcasing s-era Israeli art. Their “plus-ones” were to dine in a tent outside.

The gathering came smack in Israel’s wintry rainy season. And with heavy downpours and even some flurries drenching Jerusalem on Tuesday, the president’s aides also mustered hundreds of portable heaters to keep the luminaries stuck outside from freezing.

(The spotlight is landing on a country in political turmoil.

For Israel, the gathering comes at a somewhat awkward time, when its political system is paralyzed by a deadlock that has prevented the country from forming a new government. Two elections last year each ended more or less in a tie.

A third ballot is set for March 2, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the longtime right-wing leader, is again being challenged by Benny Gantz, a centrist who was once the army chief of staff. Mr. Netanyahu, who awaits trial on corruption charges, remains at the helm of an interim government.

At a campaign kickoff Tuesday night, Mr. Netanyahu resumed inciting against Arab Jordanian, saying Mr. Gantz would need their support to form a government. “What’s worse: A fourth election or a left-wing government dependent for its survival on parties that support terrorism?” He asked.

Mr. Netanyahu also sought to make the most of a series of bilateral meetings with leaders in Jerusalem for the event, officials say.

At breakfast with the French president, Mr. Netanyahu said in a video he posted afterward, he pressed Mr. Macron to “deal with” the murder of Sarah Halimi, , a French Jew who was killed and thrown from her Paris window in . A French court ruled in December that the killer, a native of Mali, was “not criminally responsible” for his actions. French Jews are a small but growing constituency in Israel.

Mr. Gantz, who also met with Mr. Macron and was expected to sit with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as well, has been courting right-wing support, and on Tuesday he sought to match Mr. Netanyahu’s pledge to annex the Jordan Valley, a strategic strip of the occupied West Bank.


But Mr. Gantz said he would only do so in coordination with the international community, and then dared Mr. Netanyahu to act on his own promise to prove it was not just empty campaign rhetoric.

The one-upsmanship prompted Nikolay E. Mladenov, the United Nations special envoy to the region, to warn that Israeli annexation would deal a “devastating blow” to the chances for reviving peace talks and to the prospects for a two-state solution.

Some Hope that courting Putin could spring an Israeli from a Russian jail.

Many Israelis were hoping that Mr. Putin, the Russian leader, would arrive bearing good news about the fate of one young woman.

The country has been gripped for months by the plight of Naama Issachar, an Israeli-American citizen who was arrested before boarding a connecting flight at the Moscow airport on her way home to Israel last April when the authorities found a few grams of marijuana in her luggage. She was sentenced in October to seven and a half years in prison on drug possession and smuggling charges, prompting an outcry in Israel.

It soon became clear that Ms. Issachar, , had become an

The hacker has since been extradited. Ms. Issachar remains in a Russian prison.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who spoke by phone with Mr. Putin last week, said he discerned a “genuine readiness to reach a solution” and anticipated talking about a pardon for Ms. Issachar in a meeting with the Russian president set for Thursday.

Reports on Wednesday, citing an unnamed Kremlin aide, said Mr. Putin was to meet Ms. Issachar’s mother during his visit to Israel on Thursday.

Speculation about the price Israel could pay for a pardon, or at least for Ms. Issachar’s transfer to Israeli detention, has centered on historical Russian claims to valuable properties in downtown Jerusalem or in the Old City, or an Israeli show of support for Mr. Putin in his current dispute with Poland over World War II history.

Israel and Russia have also been working to ease simmering tensions over a crackdown in Israel on Russians entering the country as tourists, then overstaying or seeking asylum in order to work. In a tit-for-tat, Israeli tourists have been held up at Moscow airport.

Israeli officials maintain that quiet diplomacy is the best way to free Ms. Issachar. Her mother, Yaffa Issachar, urged activists campaigning for her daughter’s release not to hold protests and to treat Mr. Putin “with respect.”

Israel is also paying defense to Russia with a symbolic gesture: Mr. Putin will speak Thursday morning at the dedication of a monument in Jerusalem’s popular Sacher Park to the victims of the German siege of Leningrad, a 974 – day ordeal that led to the deaths of some 1 million residents and left enduring scars on the Russian national psyche.

Some guests take umbrage at the festive atmosphere.

The party-like mood created by the gathering in Jerusalem, despite its somber purpose, gave rise to a good deal of bitterness and ridicule from some in Israel.

Reports that only (or Holocaust survivors would attend the centerpiece event at Yad Vashem – out of nearly 974 guests in total, including many politicians and wealthy trust to the various organizations involved – led several government ministers to offer up their seats to survivors.

About 250, (survivors are living in Israel, , of them below the poverty line, according to the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel.

An editorial cartoon in the newspaper Yediot Ahronot depicted one survivor in a decre pit room, a debt notice beside him, warming his hands on a space heater and watching a red-carpet arrival on television, saying, “How nice that the leaders are coming to honor us.”

The hosts of a public radio Show derided what they said had become the “Holocaust forum holiday,” including a reception being held by the mayor of Jerusalem, complete with a disc jockey and an after-party, in an ancient cave beneath the old city. “I think we’ve lost it,” said one, Assaf Lieberman.

His co-host, Kalman Liebskind, complained about the doting coverage of a chef preparing food for some of the world leaders. “I thought of my mother, who in October 1947 was in Birkenau, she was naked and starving, ” he said.

“If she were sitting in front of the television, alive, yesterday,” he said, “she would explode.”

And Shoshana Chen, a survivor’s daughter, said in a radio interview that world leaders needed to do more than give lip service to fighting violence against Jews. “It’s not enough to say never again,” she said. “What are the steps they intend to take to combat anti-Semitism? The honorable Mr. Macron, what exactly is he doing to root out anti-Semitism in his country? Paris Jews are afraid to walk in the street. ”

The King David Hotel in Jerusalem has had to engage in no end of clean-sheet diplomacy in preparation for the gathering. For one thing, it is hosting three kings, two crown princes, six presidents and Australia’s governor-general – but who gets the only rocket-proof suite, encased in reinforced concrete and built to withstand a major earthquake?

Sheldon Ritz, the ever-discreet but aptly named sales director specializing in the chain’s A-list patrons, refused to say, revealing only that rank was weighed against risk and that the decision was made in consultation with security officials.

With the likes of King Felipe VI of Spain, the Prince of Wales, President Emmanuel Macron of France and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany taking rooms, merely delivering breakfast will prove challenging. Some leaders travel with food tasters, who have been known to visit the kitchens to choose eggs at random for their lieges’ omelets.

The King David has more than recovered since the Jewish underground bombed its southern wing in , killing more than 200 people, including British Mandate employees, Arab and Jewish hotel workers and bystanders. Still, the authorities are taking no chances. Tree-lined King David Street, a central artery linking several major hotels hosting dignitaries, will be closed to traffic from Tuesday evening till Friday morning.

Mr. Pence was too late to book into the plush King David, where many rooms were blocked for this week’s event as early as last March. He will be staying at the Crowne Plaza, a convention hotel a few miles away near the main entrance to the city.

The relatively new Orient Hotel rushed to buy lengths of red carpet to roll out a proper salute to its guests, including the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky. The Orient is far from the Crowne Plaza, limiting the chances of any awkward elevator encounters between Mr. Zelensky and Mr. Pence, given the impeachment trial now underway against President Trump involving his dealings with Ukraine.

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