French president Emmanuel Macron today launched a furious English language attack on heavily armed Israeli security guards for following him into a French church in Jerusalem.
The 42-year-old head of state erupted in anger after officers broke diplomatic protocol by walking into Saint Anne’s, in the city’s Old Town, on Wednesday.
‘Everybody knows the rules,’ Macron shouted. ‘I don’t like what you did in front of me. Go outside!’
It was an echo of a similar row his predecessor Jacques Chirac had at the church in 1996.
When an Israel official initially refused to move out of the church, Mr Macron said: ‘You know the rules! Nobody, nobody, nobody has to provoke.
‘We keep calm. We had a wonderful walk. You did a great job in the city, I do appreciate, guys, but please respect the rules as they are for centuries – they will not change with me, I can tell you, so everybody respect the rules.’
Video footage of the row was circulated on social media.
St Anne’s Church has belonged to France ever since the Ottoman Empire gave it to Napoleon III in 1856 as thanks for his support during the Crimean War.
Mr Macron is acutely aware of protocol in Jerusalem, which is claimed as a capital city by both Israel and Palestine.
It is also considered holy to the three major Abrahamic religions – Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
Mr Macron began a visit to Jerusalem on Wednesday, and hoped to avoid the controversies of past presidents.
In 1996, the then conservative President Jacques Chirac visited St Anne’s but refused to enter until Israeli security guards had left.
Mr Chirac, who died last September, said the Israelis were being deliberately provocative and heavy-handed, and at one point threatened to get back on his plane to Paris.
Mr Macron’s two-day visit had included meetings to discuss the prospect of peace in the Middle East with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Mr Macron has frequently expressed his desire to renew the Israel-Palestine peace process, which stalled in 2014.
But earlier this month, he said: ‘I’m not going to come saying ‘this is a peace plan’ because it would only fail. I’m going to speak to the players, see what the conditions are. France always has a role to play and I don’t think we’re absent from the debates in the region.’
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Peter Allen