Four days before elections, Lapid to powwow with France’s Macron
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Four days before elections, Lapid to powwow with France’s Macron

Blue and White’s No. 2 had endorsed his ‘friend’ in 2017; the two will meet at the Elysee Palace to discuss Middle East issues and European anti-Semitism

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee palace on February 8, 2019 in Paris. (Ludovic Marin/Pool/AFP)
French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee palace on February 8, 2019 in Paris. (Ludovic Marin/Pool/AFP)

Blue and White party No. 2 Yair Lapid made his way to Paris on Friday for a meeting with his “friend” French President Emmanuel Macron.

During their sit-down at the Elysee Palace, scheduled for 4.30 p.m. Israel time, the two will “discuss the situation in the Middle East, the Iranian threat and the war on growing anti-Semitism in Europe,” Lapid’s office said.

The unusual meeting between a head of state and an opposition politician is taking place four days before the Knesset elections, a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin and less than two weeks after the Israeli leader met with US President Donald Trump at the White House.

Netanyahu’s close personal relationship with world leaders has been one of the key components of his Likud party’s campaign strategy.

“The ties that I have with world leaders – with Putin, with [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi from India, with [Brazilian President Jair] Bolsonaro… with [Prime Minister Shinzo] Abe from Japan, with the leaders of China, and with other leaders — are an asset to the State of Israel,” he said two weeks ago, as he made his way to Washington.

“However, we have never had such a bond between the prime minister of Israel and an American president. This is a very, very important asset for the State of Israel and it is important that it continue to serve us.”

Lapid, who has long shown a great interest in diplomacy, leading some to call him a self-styled shadow foreign minister, considers Macron a “friend” and even endorsed him in the 2017 French presidential election.

“Even though it is not my habit to interfere in elections in other countries, I will make an exception this time,” Lapid wrote in a Facebook post in French at the time.

Macron, who like Lapid considers himself a centrist, was facing off against the far-right National Front candidate Marine Le Pen.

Le candidat du Parti centriste, mon ami Emmanuel Macron est qualifié pour le second tour de l’élection présidentielle en…

פורסם על ידי ‏‎Yesh Atid en français‎‏ ב- יום שני, 24 באפריל 2017

According to a rotation agreement signed between Lapid’s Yesh Atid party and Benny Gantz’s Israel Resilience, Gantz is the prime ministerial candidate for the centrist party for the first two and a half years. Should they win the election, Lapid would become prime minister after that for the remainder of the term, at which point Gantz would become defense minister.

Gantz, a former army chief with no diplomatic or political experiences, is not known to have met any heads of state. But at the sidelines of a trip to Washington to address AIPAC’s annual Policy Conference last month, he met with several senior officials, including US Vice President Mike Pence and Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă.

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