JERUSALEM – A heated exchange took place between France’s President Emmanuel Macron and Israeli security at a church in Jerusalem’s Old City Wednesday, with the French leader telling personnel to leave the holy site because “it’s France here.”
“Go out — outside please!” Macron told Israeli security inside the Church of Saint Anne, which is officially French territory.
“Everybody knows the rules. I don’t like what you did in front of me,” Macron told one officer before asking him to leave.
“Nobody has to provoke nobody!” he said in English after both the French security detail and the Israelis jostled to be the first to enter the Roman Catholic church.
“Please respect the rules, they are for centuries,” Macron said, “They will not change with me, I can tell you, okay? So everybody, respect the rules.”
“It’s France here, and everyone knows the rule,” he said, still in English.
A video of the altercation quickly went viral on social media:
Later, Macron visited the Western Wall and thereafter offered an explanation regarding the exchange.
“The Israeli security did excellent work when they accompanied me through the streets. Everything was calm. At the entrance to the Church of Saint Anne they stop, and French security takes over responsibility,” he said.
Israel police and the Shin Bet security service released a joint statement saying that Macron had asked the Israeli security team to respect the rules at the church after both security details had discussed whether they could enter with him.
“In accordance with the security arrangements coordinated beforehand, the French president and his people were accompanied in the church by a policeman and a member of the Shin Bet,” the statement said.
According to the statement, the French leader’s team apologized for the altercation and said Macron shook hands with the Israeli team before continuing his tour of the Old City while “accompanied by the [Israeli] forces and all the necessary means to maintain his safety as a high level individual visiting Israel.”
Macron’s predecessor, Jacques Chirac, also lost his cool with Israeli security in a 1996 visit to the same church. Annoyed that the Israelis were too close to him and preventing him from welcoming journalists and well-wishers, Chirac yelled, “What do you want? Me to go back to my plane and go back to France, is that what you want?”
Asked by reporters outside the church about his response to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s call to condemn the International Criminal Court’s recent decision to launch a probe into alleged Israeli war crimes, Macron demurred to give a clear answer.
“I will give them my response when I have better knowledge on the file,” he said.