Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday night bluntly slammed French President Emmanuel Macron over remarks he made a day earlier, in which he criticized Israel for killing babies and the elderly in Gaza and reiterated his call for a ceasefire.
During a press conference, Netanyahu said that the French president had “made a serious mistake, factually and morally,” in his allegations that Israel is intentionally bombing civilians.
“It’s Hamas preventing the evacuation of civilians, not Israel. Israel tells them to leave,” Netanyahu said, accusing Hamas of firing on the humanitarian corridor set up for northern Gazans to evacuate and using civilians as human shields.
“It’s not Israel that locates itself in hospitals, in schools, in UNRWA and UN facilities — it’s Hamas. Therefore, it is not Israel but Hamas that is responsible for harm to civilians,” he argued.
“And I say to the president of France and our other friends — it will reach you too,” Netanyahu continued. “Immunity must not given to terrorists who carry out this double war crime. We are truly doing everything to minimize harm to civilians or noncombatants, but we will not give Hamas the license to murder our citizens without our response.
“We can do without the moral preaching.”
Macron is among Western leaders who have visited Israel in a show of solidarity since Hamas’s October 7 onslaught, in which the terror group killed some 1,200 people and took at least 240 hostages. During his trip to Israel, Macron called for the international coalition against the Islamic State terror group to be expanded to also fight Hamas.
However, in recent days, he has spoken out against Israel’s ongoing operation to eliminate Hamas from Gaza, which the country is conducting from the air and on the ground, and at an international peace forum in Paris over the weekend said that while France shares Israel’s “willingness to get rid of terrorism,” he disagreed that the best way for Israel to “protect [itself] is having a large bombing of Gaza.”
He added that there was “no justification” for Israel’s alleged bombing of “these babies, these ladies, these old people,”
Following the pushback from Netanyahu and other Israeli officials on Saturday night, a French diplomatic source attempted to walk back the comments, saying that “President Macron never implied, and does not think, that Israeli forces are deliberately targeting civilians. He has been consistently qualifying Hamas’s use of hostages or civilian population as ‘unacceptable blackmail.'”
“While President Macron is aware of Israel’s efforts to prevent collateral damage and facilitate humanitarian access, he believes that more can be done considering the dire humanitarian situation or Gaza’s civilian population,” the source continued. “He therefore believes that a humanitarian pause and eventually a ceasefire are opportune to help the civilian population in Gaza get the much needed aid and relief.”
On Sunday morning, the French president published a letter on the Le Parisien news website in which he urged his nation to combat “the unbearable resurgence of unbridled antisemitism.”
“In one month, more than a thousand antisemitic acts were committed on our soil. Three times more acts of hatred against our Jewish compatriots in a few weeks than during the whole of last year,” he wrote.
“Our Jewish compatriots therefore experience legitimate anguish. Fear to take their children to school. Fear of going home alone. Fear to the point of hiding their name to protect themselves,” Macron added. “A France where our fellow Jewish citizens are afraid is not France. A France where French people are afraid because of their religion or their origin is not France.”
On November 5, France’s interior minister said that more than 1,040 antisemitic incidents had been reported in France since October 7, and that 486 people had been arrested, among them 102 foreign citizens.
In his letter, Macron hailed police actions aimed at countering the epidemic and bringing antisemitism “back to where it belongs: in court and behind bars. No tolerance for the intolerable.”
He noted the atrocities committed by Hamas on October 7, and reiterated once more that he backs Israel’s right to defend itself without qualification. At the same time, he urged political dialogue and building a “humanitarian coalition” that will facilitate a “humanitarian truce leading to a ceasefire.”
“We want justice, peace and security for the people of Israel, for the Palestinian people and for the states of the region,” he concluded, urging unity among the French.