Macron tells Netanyahu Gaza war must end, is mum on freeing hostages as condition

French president backs ceasefire proposal announced by Biden, places onus on Hamas to accept it; commits to finding diplomatic solution to resolve crisis with Hezbollah

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks at a news conference at the German government guest house in Meseberg, north of Berlin, Germany, May 28, 2024. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks at a news conference at the German government guest house in Meseberg, north of Berlin, Germany, May 28, 2024. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday called for an end to the war in Gaza and the return of hostages in a phone call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, though he did not condition a ceasefire on the release of captives.

“The ordeal of the Palestinians in Gaza must end,” Macron said, according to a readout from the Élysée Palace.

Macron also expressed his support for Joe Biden’s ceasefire plan — which the US president presented as an Israeli proposal — and placed “overwhelming” responsibility on Hamas to accept the deal.

The French leader called for the ceasefire deal to “reopen a credible perspective for implementing the two-state solution,” and for a “reformed and strengthened Palestinian Authority” to govern Gaza.

The US president announced Friday what he described as an Israeli proposal for a phased hostage release and ceasefire deal. His speech triggered shockwaves in the government, whose far-right parties threatened to bring down the coalition if Netanyahu moved to advance the proposal.

The US president laid out a number of the proposal’s key elements in some detail, urging Hamas to accept it and the Israeli government to “stand behind it.”

US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the Middle East, from the State Dining Room of the White House, May 31, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The deal would see the remaining living female, elderly and sick hostages abducted during the Hamas-led October 7 onslaught released during the first phase of six weeks. Biden indicated that the second phase of the deal would see a permanent end to the war and that Hamas would not remain in power in Gaza, but did not detail how that would come about.

Also during the first phase, Israel and Hamas would hold negotiations regarding the terms of the permanent ceasefire and the release of the remaining living hostages in the second phase. The third phase would see the release of the bodies of hostages and the commencement of an internationally backed reconstruction plan for Gaza.

Macron also offered condolences to Netanyahu after the announcement that four more hostages had been confirmed dead, and “reiterated the solidarity of the French people with the Israeli people in the face of terrorism.”

Hamas-led terrorists kidnapped 251 people on October 7, including a number of bodies, during their murderous onslaught on southern Israel, when they killed close to 1,200 people. The Israel Defense Forces has now confirmed the deaths of 41 of the 120 hostages believed to still be held in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas is also believed to be holding two Israeli civilians who entered the Strip in 2014 and 2015, as well as the bodies of two IDF soldiers who were killed in 2014.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) greets French President Emmanuel Macron before a meeting in Jerusalem on October 24, 2023. (Christophe Ena/Pool/AFP)

On Lebanon, where France is an influential player, Macron expressed his concern over the expanding fighting between Israel and Hezbollah and said France is fully committed to finding a diplomatic solution.

Israel has expressed openness to a diplomatic solution to the clashes on its northern border, which Hezbollah launched on October 8, but has threatened to go to war against the Iran-backed terror group to restore security to the north of Israel, where tens of thousands of civilians are currently displaced.

Macron also voiced “deep concern over the trajectory of Iran’s nuclear program,” and pledged to put pressure on Tehran to honor their commitments.

Jacob Magid and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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