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Macron confronted Netanyahu over 'unacceptable' interference in France's elections

The French president became angry when an Israeli minister publicly and repeatedly praised far-right leader Marine Le Pen
French President Emmanuel Macron attended a tribute ceremony on 7 February for the 42 French citizens killed during the Hamas-led attacks on 7 October 2023 (AFP/Gonzalo Fuentes)

French President Emmanuel Macron complained to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about "unacceptable" interference in France's elections during a phone call, according to a new report.

Axios reported that Macron was angered by repeated public praise for far-right candidate Marine Le Pen by Israel's minister of diaspora affairs, Amichai Chikli.

Chikli, who is also responsible for combating antisemitism in Europe and the rest of the diaspora, repeatedly praised Le Pen and her National Rally (RN) party despite its legacy of antisemitism.

Chikli said Le Pen would be "excellent for Israel" in an interview earlier this month, and he has also been photographed with the far-right leader. Chikli claimed that Netanyahu was "of the same" mind regarding Le Pen.

During their phone call last week, Macron told Netanyahu, "This is unacceptable", referring to the minister's comments, two sources familiar with the phone call told Axios.

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A tense alliance between France's leftist and centrist parties thwarted a victory for Marine Le Pen's far-right party in the parliamentary elections on Sunday.

In the first round of voting a week ago, the RN came out on top and aimed to secure the most seats in France’s legislature. However, after tactical voting, the left-wing New Popular Front emerged victorious in the second round, pushing the RN into third place behind Macron's supporters.

Netanyahu reportedly assured Macron that he had instructed his ministers not to comment on the French parliamentary elections, but Chikli continued to voice support for the RN.

Le Pen and the RN have taken a staunchly pro-Israel position on foreign affairs and have been accused of pivoting towards Islamophobia in recent years.

The former party leader and Marine Le Pen's father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, was repeatedly accused of antisemitism and infamously referred to the Nazi gas chambers as a "detail of history".

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