Macron Accuses Israeli Official of Election Interference, Axios Reports

Israel’s diaspora affairs minister backed the French leader’s right-wing opponents ahead of last weekend’s vote

French President Emmanuel Macron has contacted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to express his displeasure with what he considers “unacceptable” interference in France’s recent election by one of Netanyahu’s ministers, according to Axios.

In an interview with Israel’s Kan broadcaster earlier this month, Israeli Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli voiced his support for Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party, now led by Jordan Bardella. 

“It would be excellent for Israel if [Le Pen] were the president of France, ten exclamation points. In my opinion, it would be good for the State of Israel,” Chikli said. When asked whether Netanyahu shared his view, Chikli responded “I think Netanyahu and I are of the same opinion.”

The interview took place just four days before parliamentary elections in France, where Macron’s centrist Ensemble bloc was forced into a de-facto coalition with leftist, green, and communist parties to prevent the National Rally from securing a majority.

The day after Chikli’s interview, Macron called Netanyahu to complain that the minister’s comments were “unacceptable,” and amounted to election interference, Axios reporter Barak Ravid reported on Tuesday. Netanyahu assured Macron that he had instructed all of his ministers to refrain from commenting on the French vote, Ravid added.

The French government has not commented on the call. Netanyahu’s office and the French embassy in Israel declined to comment on the matter.

Despite Netanayhu’s apparent assurance, Chikli continued to offer his opinion on French politics in the days after the call. “Macron threw the Jewish community under the bus, and I stand behind this statement,” he told Israel’s Army Radio on Monday.

Netanyahu’s former foreign and defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, also weighed in on Monday, writing on X: “I appeal to all Jews in France: Come and live in Israel!”

Leftist leader Jean-luc Melenchon, whose New Popular Front emerged with the largest parliamentary faction in the French election, is perceived by right-wingers as being lenient on Islamism. In an address on Sunday, he vowed to recognize the State of Palestine “as quickly as possible” after forming a government.

Le Pen is well known for her hardline stance on Muslim immigration, and the National Rally has adopted a pro-Israel foreign policy in recent years. Last month, Bardella told reporters that the party would not recognize a Palestinian state, as to do so “would be to recognise terrorism.”

France is home to around 440,000 Jews, making its Jewish community the world’s third-largest, according to figures from the Jewish Agency for Israel. The influx of Muslim immigrants to France from the 1960s onwards has led to friction between the two communities, with a glut of and on Jews taking place in recent years.