It is a strong statement which could have irritated in France, but especially in Israel. French President Emmanuel Macron said, in an interview with his Israeli counterpart, that he “does not accuse Israel of intentionally harming civilians” in Gaza, referring to comments made during a BBC interviewthe Israeli presidency said on Sunday.
Israeli head of state Isaac Herzog, according to a press release from his services, welcomed this telephone exchange which allowed Emmanuel Macron to “clarify” his comments. In an interview with the BBC broadcast Friday evening, Emmanuel Macron had “urged Israel to stop” bombings killing civilians in Gaza. “De facto, today, civilians are being bombed. These babies, these women, these elderly people are being bombed and killed,” he said.
“President Macron has made it clear that he does not intend to accuse Israel of intentionally harming innocent civilians as part of the campaign against the terrorist organization Hamas,” noted the Israeli presidency.
His remarks concerned “the humanitarian situation”
The French president clarified that his comments to the BBC “concerned the humanitarian situation, which remains an important issue for him and for many countries”, she added. According to the Israeli presidency, Emmanuel Macron “also stressed that he unequivocally supported Israel’s right and duty to defend itself and expressed his support for Israel’s war against Hamas.”
In its report of this conversation, as well as a call with Minister Benny Gantz, the French presidency does not mention the comments to the BBC.
While reaffirming “Israel’s right to defend itself” and “France’s solidarity with Israel in its fight against terrorism”, the French president “recalled, once again, that this fight must be conducted with respect of international humanitarian law and taking into account the protection of civilian populations,” according to the Élysée.
Emmanuel Macron’s comments to the BBC “caused a lot of pain and annoyance in Israel”, says the Israeli presidency. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called them a “factual and moral error” during a press conference on Saturday. “Responsibility for the damage caused to civilians should not be attributed to Israel, but to Hamas,” he said.