Netanyahu and Macron
Netanyahu and MacronPhoto: GPO

A French political official on Saturday night rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's criticism of French President Emmanuel Macron at his press conference earlier in the evening.

The official, who was quoted in Haaretz, clarified that Macron "has not changed his position" on Israeli action against Hamas, but the French president believes that Israel can and should do more to prevent harm to Palestinian Arab civilians in Gaza.

The French official added that a humanitarian pause and subsequent ceasefire should be promoted to allow the transfer of aid to Gazans in parallel to the release of hostages held by Hamas.

Macron caused an uproar on Friday night when he said in an interview with the BBC that there was "no justification" for the bombing of civilians in the Gaza Strip.

"De facto - today, civilians are bombed - de facto. These babies, these ladies, these old people are bombed and killed. So there is no reason for that and no legitimacy. So we do urge Israel to stop," said the French President, though he also said it was not his role to judge whether international law had been broken.

Netanyahu responded to the French President's comments in a press conference with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Minister Benny Gantz, saying that Macron "made a grave error" and adding, "We don't need these moral lectures."

Gallant was also critical of Macron, though he did not directly mention the French President by name and only alluded to “leaders in Europe” who have been critical of Israel.

"I hear some of them and ask myself and them: Where does this courage come from to preach morality to us while fighting? 1500 soldiers, civilians, women, and children were kidnapped or killed in battles. This happened only a month ago. I want to say to those European leaders who criticize us: the State of Israel in 2023 is not in 1943. We have the ability and the duty to defend ourselves on our own and this is what we will do."

The French source said in response to Netanyahu and Gallant's comments that Macron has remained steadfast in his support for Israel from the first day of the war, and called several times for the immediate release of all hostages held by Hamas.

The same source added that, in light of the fact that 40 French citizens were killed in the Hamas attack, and eight were kidnapped by the organization or declared missing, "France shares Israel's grief and pain."