“Go outside,” French President Emmanuel Macron demanded in English in an argument with Israeli security men on Wednesday, demanding they leave a church in Yerushalayim that he visited before a Holocaust memorial conference.
The French tricolor has flown over St. Anne’s Church in the Old City since it was gifted by the Ottomans to French Emperor Napoleon III in 1856.
France views it as a provocation when Israeli police enter the sandstone complex, in a part of the capital captured by Israel in the Six Day War and annexed.
Wednesday’s incident was a case of deja vu all over again. In 1996, former President Jacques Chirac lost patience with Israeli security agents at the same site, telling one of them that his treatment was a “provocation” and threatening to get back on his plane. Chirac refused to enter until Israeli security left the site.
Video on Wednesday showed Macron, jostled in the center of a crowded circle between his own protective detail and Israeli security personnel, including several paramilitary policemen in uniform, under an archway entrance.
Macron then stopped the shoving and shouted at the Israeli security guards in English: “I don’t like what you did in front of me.”
“Go outside please, nobody has to provoke anyone, is that understood?” Macron says in English in video footage from the scene. “We stay calm, we have had a wonderful walk, you do a good job in the city and I appreciate it, but please respect the rules established for centuries, they will not change with me, I can tell you,” he adds.
“It’s France here, and everyone knows the rule,” he says, still in English.
Lowering his voice, he then said: “Go outside. I’m sorry, you know the rules. Nobody has to provoke nobody.”
French diplomats had cautioned that they want to leave little room for mishaps on Macron’s trip. Earlier on Wednesday, a separate squabble ensued when Israeli police tried to enter the site ahead of Macron’s visit.
After the incident made headlines, the police and Shin Bet issued a joint statement, describing it as a “discussion,” for which Macron apologized.
“Today, the Shin Bet and the Israel Police secured French President Emmanuel Macron while he visited the Old City of Jerusalem. When they arrived at St. Anne’s Church in the Old City, there was a discussion between security officials and French security guards about entering the church with the President.
“The French President asked the force to respect the rules of the place, and, in accordance with the pre-arranged coordination for security, a police officer and Shin Bet officer accompanied the French President and his men into the church.
“Upon leaving, the President’s team apologized for the incident, the President shook hands with the troops and continued his visit to the Old City accompanied by the forces and the means necessary to maintain his security as a high-ranking personality visiting Israel,” the statement read.
Later in the day, Macron and his entourage visited the Kosel, accompanied by Rav of the Kosel, Rav Shmuel Rabinowitz.
Updated Wednesday, January 22, 2020 at 2:22 pm .