Macron to Netanyahu: Jerusalem Embassy Move Led to People Dying, Didn't Promote Peace

Israeli PM says he did not ask France to quit Iran nuclear deal, saying he believes economic pressure will 'dissolve' it

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Netanyahu and Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris on June 5, 2018.
Netanyahu and Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris on June 5, 2018.Credit: LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday that the relocation of the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem led to “people dying” and did not advance peace.

At a joint press conference, Macron and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that in their 90-minute-long meeting, they discussed Iran’s growing influence in the region and the 2015 nuclear deal.

Macron said France shared Israel’s concerns about Iran. He stressed the importance of the Iran deal but said it should be complemented with an agreement that would target Tehran’s ballistic-missile program and activities in the region. Macron added that the two leaders agreed to set up joint working groups to coordinate efforts.

French President Emmanuel Macron, left, and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attend a meeting at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, June 5, 2018. Netanyahu is meeting France's President Macron as Credit: Philippe Wojazer/AP

Netanyahu, for his part, said he did not ask Macron to withdraw from the  nuclear deal. “I didn’t ask France to withdraw from JCPOA because I think it will be dissolved by weight of economic forces,” Netanyahu said.

As he put it, “My interest is not this or that agreement but to make sure Iran does not have nuclear weapons, and the last thing anyone wants is to have this theocratic dictatorships have a nuclear arsenal.”

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Netanyahu said the "most important thing is to get Iran out of Syria."

Macron said the moving of the embassy to Jerusalem provoked violence and did not promote peace. "If this leads to people dying it’s not a celebration," he said, adding that France sought to help find a solution to the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

About the Palestinian issue, Macron said he told Netanyahu about France's position, which is a "long-term and just solution of two states with Jerusalem as a shared capital." Macron said he told the prime minister that he was worried about the threats to the peace process, while condemning any violence against civilians and stressing France's "commitment for the security of Israel."

Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara met with Jewish leaders of France in Paris, June 5, 2018.Credit: Haim Tzach / GPO

Netanyahu also mentioned next week’s planned summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, saying both Macron and he wished Trump success in his efforts to end the North Korean nuclear threat.

Ahead of his meeting with Macron, Netanyahu and his wife Sara met with leaders of the Jewish community in Paris. The prime minister spoke about Israel-France relations, recent waves of anti-Semitic attacks and the threat of radical Islam. 

"We are preventing terrible attacks, including here, in France. Israel has stopped a great deal of attacks in Europe and will continue to do so," Netanyahu said. 

Netanyahu met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday and will meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday.

Macron met with Netanyahu last December and told him he should "give peace a chance" and "make gestures toward the Palestinians." Macron suggested that one such gesture would be the freezing of Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank.

At the time, Macron also said he told Netanyahu that Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital was a threat to peace, and that the French government opposed it. Netanyahu told Macron that Israel "would not tolerate" Iran's presence in Syria.

At Monday's meeting with Merkel, Netanyahu warned that Iran seeks to wage a religious war in Syria. "This will inflame a religious war, and the consequences will be many more refugees, and you know exactly where they'll come," Netanyahu said at a joint press conference, adding that "Iran must leave Syria. All of Syria."

Merkel, who stands by the nuclear agreement, said Germany supported Israel's right to security. "We have the same goal that Iran must never get a nuclear weapon and the difference between us is how to do that," she said.

In recent weeks, European countries have expressed concerns over Israel's use of live fire during mass Palestinian protests along the Gaza border. Macron and May are expected to bring up the violent escalation in Gaza and urge Israel to act with restraint.