Far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen’s pick for prime minister, should she win France’s May 7 runoff, has in the past sharply criticized Israel over its actions towards the Palestinians.
Nicolas Dupont-Aignan also supported a French parliamentary vote to recognize a Palestinian state in 2014, over Israeli objections, appearing to equate the “hardline” policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with those of the Palestinian terror group Hamas.
Le Pen on Saturday named euroskeptic Dupont-Aignan — who came in sixth during the election’s first round with 4.7 percent of the vote — as her choice for prime minister. Dupont-Aignan, 56, heads the Debout la France (France Stand Up) movement.
During 2014’s war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Dupont-Aignan issued a strongly worded statement in which he censured Israel’s “disproportionate” actions throughout the operation.
Dupont-Aignan called the collateral damage to innocent civilians during Operation Protective Edge “unacceptable” and criticized the Israeli ground operations as an “invasion” of Gaza. He also slammed France’s “scandalous inertia” in failing to help rein in the Jewish state. He claimed failure to do so would “import” the conflict into France.
“Whatever the responsibilities of the irresponsible leaders of Hamas in the outbreak of this new confrontation, the path chosen by Israel only pushes it into an impasse,” he wrote. “It is not by accumulating the ruins and the dead that Mr. Netanyahu will appease the tensions, passions and hatreds in this region of the world.”
Later that same year Dupont-Aignan supported the French parliament’s recognition of Palestine, saying he did so based on the fundamental principle of “the right of peoples to self-determination.
“Some Israeli and Palestinian leaders are co-responsible for [the ongoing conflict], as the duel between the hawks of each camp, carried out on one side by Benjamin Netanyahu and on the other by Hamas, still testifies today.”
He added that his vote was “the choice of common sense, which many Israelis support, in spite of the attacks, the threat of rocket fire and the unworthy suicide attacks” by Palestinians.
In a bruising contest against pro-European centrist Emmanuel Macron, Le Pen is hoping to broaden her base wide enough to win the decisive second-round election, despite polls suggesting she is 20 points behind.
The anti-immigration Le Pen, who wants to withdraw France from the euro, told reporters that she and Dupont-Aignan shared a “common project that we will promote together.
“We will build a national unity government that will bring together people chosen for their skills and their love of France,” said Le Pen.
“It’s an historic day because we are putting France before personal and partisan interests,” said Dupont-Aignan, whose backing for Le Pen sparked the resignation of several Debout la France officials.
Appointed by the president, France’s prime minister leads the government and ensures the implementation of laws.
Meanwhile, Macron was aiming to entice voters in rural central France to his pro free-trade, globalist message.
“On one side, there is a reactionary, anti-European right… and on the other, a progressive movement that supports an EU that protects as well as social and economic reform,” he said. “That is my candidacy.”
Polls give him a commanding lead of up to 20 points over Le Pen in the run-off but show the gap narrowing slightly after Macron’s sluggish start to his second-round campaigning.
Le Pen’s announcement came with the National Front again fighting a furor over a senior official’s reported remarks about Nazi gas chambers.
Jean-Francois Jalkh, who was tapped to lead the FN after Le Pen temporarily stepped down to campaign, was accused of praising the work of a convicted Holocaust denier.
“What I’m saying, and what really surprised me, in the work of a genuine negationist or revisionist… is the well-worked, rigorous nature of the argument put forward,” Jalkh, 59, was quoted as saying.
“We condemn this type of remark and he denies (making) them,” the FN’s Louis Aliot said.
Le Pen has attempted to woo new voters on either side of the political divide, telling leftists their real enemy is the free-marketeer ex-banker, and conservatives that Macron would continue the policies of the unpopular outgoing Socialists and be soft on terrorism.
In a video message Friday, she urged the near 20 percent of voters who backed euroskeptic leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon in the first round to “block” Macron, saying his pro-business program was “diametrically opposed” to leftist ideals.
“Let’s put our quarrels and divergences to one side,” she said in the message, calling Macron the choice of the “oligarchy.”
Melenchon has refused to explicitly endorse the liberal Macron, breaking with France’s “republican front” tradition of the big parties coming together to bar the FN at the gates of power.
An Odoxa poll Friday showed 40% of Melenchon’s supporters would back Macron, 41% would abstain and 19% would vote for Le Pen.
Melenchon’s spokesman Alexis Corbiere rebuffed Le Pen’s advances, telling supporters: “Not one vote should go to the National Front.”
Le Pen has sought to purge the FN of the anti-Semitism that was its trademark under her father, co-founder Jean-Marie Le Pen.
In 2015 she booted him out of the party for repeatedly calling the Holocaust a “detail” of history but this month was herself criticized for saying France bore no responsibility for the round-up and deportation of French Jews during the war.