As leaders of an organization deeply involved in pro-Israel advocacy in France and other key European countries, we are writing to report that the people of France have elected a potentially strong friend of Israel, Emmanuel Macron, as president.
When Macron, then France’s Minister for the Economy, made his highly successful official visit to Israel in September 2015, one of the present authors was invited to accompany the delegation. Macron also brought dozens of top French industrial executives, and shared with the delegation many words of high praise for Israel as the “Start-Up Nation.”ur organization hosted a private meeting with the candidate Macron attended by 70 prominent members of the French pro-Israel community. Some of those who heard him became strong supporters of Macron, and built relations with his senior staff. Macron’s top advisers on foreign policy and national security issues serve on the Advisory Board to ELNET’s Forum for Strategic Dialogue, and they have actively participated in many FSD events.
Emmanuel Macron has been outspoken on key issues important to Israel, standing in sharp opposition to France’s far-Left, which is hostile to Israel. “No to the boycott of Israel, no to a unilateral recognition of a state of Palestine by France … If France commits to unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state, we are contributing to an imbalance and will weaken France’s ability to play a role in regional stability and in this conflict.”
Macron is also a strong opponent of BDS: “French law prohibits … boycotting [Israel]. There is no question of changing that law and no question of acting indulgently on this. For me, these [BDS protests] are anti-Zionist moves, thus profoundly anti-Semitic … I condemn this approach both legally and politically.”
When, in November 2015, following the Paris terror attacks, another candidate for the French Presidency declared that he was in favor of a “global coalition” to fight against ISIS, including Iran and Hezbollah, Macron countered, “There can be no indulgence concerning Hezbollah,” and he criticized the idea of allying with Iran.
Yes, there may be some in the new President’s entourage who are less supportive of Israel. And given Macron’s scarce foreign policy record up to now, it is not possible to know with certainty the path he will follow as president. But we believe, on the basis of real contact and experience, that the new President of France is open to a much better relationship with Israel and may emerge as a true friend.
The work of Israel’s friends in France will be more important than ever in this new Macron era. We will continue to build relations, not only with Emmanuel Macron’s team, but also with the leaders of the major parties in the National Assembly whose shares of power will be decided in the June legislative elections.
Arié Bensemhoun and David Siegel are respectively CEOs of Elnet France and Elnet Israël.