French President Emmanuel Macron urged Israeli police on Wednesday to allow him into the Saint-Anne church in Jerusalem, in a scene reminiscent of an incident that involved Jacques Chirac in the 1990s.
“I don`t like what you did in front of me,” the head of France shouted at an Israeli policeman, asking him to leave the church, a French territory in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Hebrew-language outlet Ynet reported that the clash between Macron and Israeli security forces ensued after the policemen wished to go inside the church with him, prompting the leader to excoriate them.
Macron then turned to the main security figure of the bodyguard unit of the Shin Bet (Israel’s domestic security agency), thanked him for his work, but requested everyone to leave.
“You did a splendid job in the city. Please, respect the rules carried out [here] for hundreds of years,” he added.
The French president later said he regretted his outburst, extending an apology to Israeli security forces and local police.
In 1996, former French president Chirac had a verbal altercation with Israeli security personnel as well. During a tour in east Jerusalem, the late president reprimanded officers who prevented Palestinian residents from shaking his hand.
His angry outburst seemed spontaneous at the time but former Israeli ambassador to France Avi Pazner claimed that “Chirac planned this drama with Israel to find favor with Arab public opinion,” Ynet reported.
After the incident, Chirac cut short the tour in the Holy City and returned to his hotel. As a condition not to abruptly head back to Paris, Chirac demanded then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologize for the incident — who in turn refused, saying “if he wants to go, he can go.”