Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been accused of using the recent terror attacks for his own electoral campaign
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been accused of using the recent terror attacks for his own electoral campaign Reuters

Benjamin Netanyahu's offer to Jews, threatened by the recent spate of anti-Semitic attacks in Europe, to relocate to Israel has been condemned by the continent's Jewish leaders.

The Israeli prime minister's declaration, made a day Jewish security guard Dan Uzan was shot dead at a Copenhagen synagogue, has attracted anger from religious leaders across Europe who claim the timing of the offer – a month before Israel's national elections – is just cynical electioneering.

Netanyahu told a meeting of Israel's cabinet on Sunday: "The wave of attacks against Jews in Europe is expected to continue and it is up to us to stay prepared. Jews need protection wherever they are, but we're telling you: Israel is your home."

Jonathan Arfi, vice-president of the Paris-based Crif (Conseil Représentatif des Institutions juives de France), French Jewry's political umbrella organisation, told the IBTimes UK: "[Netanyahu]'s call is not the answer. He is pursuing his own electoral agenda. Undoubtedly, his agenda is not that of the European Jews today.

"For us, the main issue is to preserve good living conditions for French Jews in France. We consider his declaration is not going in the right direction."

Crif represents 60 Jewish organisations in France.

Henri Benkoski, vice-president of the CCOJB (Comité de Coordination des Organisations Juives de Belgique), the umbrella organisation of Belgian Jewish institutions, echoed this view.

"[Netanyahu]'s call was purely part of his Israeli electoral campaign. I will not fall in the trap, as a leader of the Belgian Jewish community, and enter in Netanyahu's campaign."

Netanyahu made the original call for French Aliyah – encouraging mass Jewish emigration to Israel – after four Jewish men were killed in a kosher supermarket in Paris last month.

Benkoski said Netanyahu's initial comments last month were "inappropriate".

"He tried to do that in Paris following the attacks, and stopped after realising it wasn't very appropriate. What does that mean for us? Flee Europe with our suitcases? And leaving room for Islamic terror?" said Benkoski.

The CCOJB represents 39 Jewish associations, mainly in Brussels where 18,000 Jews live.

Meanwhile, Denmark's chief Rabbi Jair Melchior also added he was "disappointed" by the Israeli prime minister's call.

"People from Denmark move to Israel because they love Israel, because of Zionism. But not because of terrorism," Melchior told the Times. "If the way we deal with terror is to run somewhere else, we should all run to a deserted island."

France and Belgium's calls to stay

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and his Belgian counterpart Charles Michel both urged Jews to stay in France and Belgium.

"We prefer those moments in history when prime ministers and governments fight to keep their Jews, than moments when it was not the case," Arfi said.

Israel's former president Shimon Peres said told an event this morning: "Don't come to Israel because of a political position, but because you want to come and live in Israel. Israel must remain a land of hope and not a land of fear."

Meanwhile, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the director of the European Jewish Association (EJA), said in a statement he urged Israel to help fund security for French Jews, and not just urge Aliyah.

About half a million Jews lived in France up until a year ago, making it the largest Jewish community in Europe.

But the country's Agence Juive, which tracks Jewish emigration, estimates that more than 5,000 Jews left France for Israel in 2014. The figure is up from 3,300 in 2013, which was already a 73% increase on 2012.