Macron Calls For ‘Decisive Relaunch’ Of Peace Process During Israel Visit3 min read
French President Emmanuel Macron attempted a delicate balancing act during his visit to Israel on Tuesday, calling for the peace process with the Palestinians to be re-energized as he pledged solidarity with Israel in the wake of Hamas’s deadly attacks against Israel.
“The security of Israel cannot be long-lasting without a decisive relaunch of the political process with Palestinians,” Macron said at a press conference with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Palestinian militant group Hamas does “not carry the Palestinian cause” and should be fought, but Palestinian aspirations must be heard “with reason,” Macron said.
The French president said he was in Israel to share his condolences after the attacks on October 7 and show his support for Israel, which is in the midst of its most deadly outbreak of violence in decades. Macron also suggested the remit of the international coalition fighting the Islamic State terror group should be widened to also fight Hamas.
“It’s in the interest of Israel and its security…This fight should be ruthless but not without rules, because we are democracies that are fighting terrorists,” he said, adding that the laws of war and “humanitarian access” to civilians must be upheld.
The French president also said he would visit the city of Ramallah in the West Bank on Tuesday, where he is expected to hold talks with the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Macron, whose visit follows trips made by U.S. President Joe Biden, Germany’s Olaf Scholz and the UK’s Rishi Sunak, is the first western leader to visit Ramallah during a trip to Israel following the attacks.
Macron’s statements will be closely scrutinized at home where there are fears the conflict in Israel and the Palestinian territories will feed tensions. France has one of the largest Muslim communities in Europe and the largest Jewish community in the world after Israel and the U.S.
France has seen a spat of antisemitic attacks in recent days and has increased security at Jewish schools and places of worship. Earlier this month, a French teacher was stabbed to death in an Islamist attack on a school in northern France.
While thanking Macron for his show of solidarity, Netanyahu did not respond to Macron’s call to relaunch the peace process, instead insisting on the priority of defeating Hamas.
“This is like having ISIS in your suburbs. That’s how we live. No one can put up with that. That’s why we have to dismantle Hamas,” he said.
Earlier on Tuesday, Macron met with relatives of French hostages or victims of the attacks at the Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. Following the meeting, Macron said the “first objective” should be to secure the release of all the hostages, “without any distinctions.”
The French president is expected to call later Tuesday for “a humanitarian truce” and the preservation of Palestinian lives during his visit, as observers warn of an unfolding humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip, where Israel is conducting retaliatory airstrikes against Hamas.
Macron is on a two-day regional tour and is expected to meet leaders in neighboring countries in the Middle East. According to the French presidency, Macron will “probably” meet the Jordanian King Abdullah on Wednesday.