Sky News Arabia – Abu Dhabi – Blame and support. Why are Macron’s attitudes towards the Gaza war changing?

Blame and support. Why are Macron’s attitudes towards the Gaza war changing?

Sky News Arabia – Abu Dhabi

French President Emmanuel Macron quickly retracted his speech in which he accused Israel of targeting civilians in Gaza, to assert in a phone call with his Israeli counterpart Isaac Herzog that he does not hold Tel Aviv responsible for deliberately harming civilians, and stresses his “unequivocal support for Israel’s right to defend itself.”

These statements raised many questions about the position of the French presidency on the current war in the Middle East, and the reasons for its retreat from the call for Israeli forces to stop “bombing civilians in Gaza”, at a time when analysts and observers of the site “Sky News Arabia”, that this confusion in the statements may put French diplomacy in a complicated position in the midst of the escalating situation in the region. 

A French academic believes that Macron will be required to switch between complex and sensitive challenges at a difficult time, as his ability to balance national interests and international issues will be crucial for the future. 

Last Thursday, Paris hosted a humanitarian conference on Gaza that saw heads of state pledge to participate in more than one billion euros in aid to the Strip, amid calls for a “ceasefire”. 

Much of this aid is supposed to be used to meet the UN‘s needs to help the people of Gaza and the West Bank, estimated at $1.2 billion until the end of 2023. 

What did Macron say?

The French president exhorted in an interview with the BBC, Israel to stop the shelling that kills civilians in Gaza. 

“We share Israel’s pain and its desire to get rid of terrorism,” Macron said, but “there is no justification” for the bombing that kills civilians in Gaza, citing “children, women and the elderly.”

“This reaction in the fight against terrorism, because it comes from democracy, must be in accordance with the international rules of war and international humanitarian law,” he said.

Israeli criticism

Asked about Israel’s possible violation of international law, Macron stressed that he was “not a judge” and expressed concern that the “intense bombardment” of Gaza would lead to “resentment” in the region.

Macron’s remarks drew direct Israeli criticism, with Prime Minister Netanyahu calling them “wrong in terms of facts and moral standing,” adding that “responsibility for any harm to civilians lies with Hamas,” which started the war and uses civilians as “human shields.” 

The Israeli presidency also said Macron’s remarks “caused a lot of pain and discomfort in Israel.”

A day later, Macron spoke to his Israeli cunterpart by phone and stressed that he “did not accuse Israel of deliberately harming civilians” in Gaza.

The Israeli presidency said after the call that “Macron made it clear that he had no intention of accusing Israel of deliberately harming innocent civilians as part of the campaign against the Hamas terrorist organization,” according to AFP.

The French president explained that his remarks to the BBC “relate to the humanitarian situation, which remains an important issue for him and for many countries.”

According to the Elysee, Macron reaffirmed “Israel’s right to defend itself” and “France’s solidarity with Israel in its fight against terrorism,” and noted “once again that this battle must be carried out in accordance with international humanitarian law and taking into account the protection of the civilian population.”

Complex Context

For his part, the French academic and professor of international relations, Frank Farnel, in statements to the site “Sky News Arabia”, that Macron’s recent statements are “controversial,” and indicate a change in Paris’ position on the war between Hamas and Israel, however, did not delay in retracting it during a phone call with the Israeli president.

Farnell said that “this approach to French diplomacy may lead to confusion in a complex context,” especially after Macron affirmed Israel’s right to defend itself and proposed to “build a regional and international coalition” against Hamas during his visit to Tel Aviv last October.

Macron was one of the first Western leaders to visit Tel Aviv, where he clearly expressed France’s “full solidarity” with Israel after the Hamas attack on October 7. 

The French academic pointed out that some believe that Macron is mainly focused on the humanitarian situation in Gaza, especially since he organized an international conference on this matter in Paris last week, which may have affected France’s position, but his close allies, such as Germany, do not share his position on the ceasefire at this stage.

“It also seems that the internal situation in France has influenced this statement, as Macron fears that the conflict will be brought to France, after the recent increase in anti-Semitic acts,” Farnel said.

“Paris is closely seeking to assert its unique position by emphasizing the importance of humanitarian law for future regional stability and is preparing for a possible paradigm shift in light of the upcoming U.S. elections, however, this approach may not take into account the realities of the current war and its potential expansion,” he stressed.

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