Several Israeli lawmakers from across the political spectrum welcomed the victory of centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron in France’s presidential election on Sunday, breathing a sigh of relief over the defeat of far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.
Pro-European Macron won France’s landmark presidential election, according to first estimates, heading off a fierce challenge from the far-right in a pivotal vote for the future of the divided country and Europe.
“I look forward to working with President Macron and together to take on the shared challenges of our two democracies,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement which included his congratulations. “One of the greatest threat facing the world today is extremist Islamic terror, which carries out attacks in Paris, Jerusalem and many other cities around the world. Israel and France have a long-standing alliance and I am sure that we will continue to deepen our connections.”
Le Pen’s National Front, with a history of anti-Semitism, had been eyed warily in Israel, with politicians mostly avoiding engaging lawmakers from the far-right group despite attempts by Le Pen to make common cause over the fight against radical Islam.
Initial estimates showed Macron winning between 65.5% and 66.1% of ballots, with Le Pen taking between 33.9% and 34.5% in the runoff election.
Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein tweeted congratulations to Macron and wished France “success and prosperity under his leadership.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely wrote that she was “looking forward to continuing Israel’s close relations with France.”
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Yesh Atid party head Yair Lapid also both sent out congratulatory messages.
Zionist Union number two Tzipi Livni, a former foreign minister, tweeted, “Congratulations to Emmanuel Macron, the president of an enlightened France.”
Colleague Amir Peretz, a candidate in the Labor party leadership race, called the result a “big victory for France and democracy.”
“This is an important defeat of fascism, anti-Semitism and empty populism. Best wishes to the new president of France,” he said.
Another candidate for leader of the Labor party, Erel Margalit, tweeted a photo of himself and the new French president, saying, “Congratulations my friend. Congratulations France.”
Likud MK Oren Hazan, a brash backbencher who had publicly supported Le Pen and alleged that others in the ruling party did as well, was silent in the immediate aftermath of the results Sunday night. Hours before the results were announced, he wrote on Facebook that victory for Macron would be a disaster.
“If France becomes the first European-Islamic power, then it will be impossible to undo and Jews… will not be able to walk around there at all.”
However, most in Israel had opposed Le Pen, who finished with only 3 percent or so of the vote among expats in Israel in the first round of voting.
Speaking to The Times of Israel on Sunday, many French-Israelis lined up to vote outside French consulates had spoken of the need to defeat Le Pen and fears that her rise could herald another dark age for Europe.
President Reuven Rivlin, who had warned Israeli officials against meeting with counterparts from the National FRont party, did not immediately release a statement.
Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich who is running to head the Histadrut labor federation, said Macron’s victory was “a great relief.”
“Normality has prevailed, dark anti-Semitism and malignant racism were defeated. It’s good for us, good for France, good for Israel-France relations, good for democracy, good for the world. Just good,” she posted on Facebook.
Minister without portfolio, Ayoub Kara, a Druze-Israeli from the Likud party, cautiously welcomed Macron’s victory.
“I hope that it will lead to a change in direction for an uncompromising war against radical Islamic terror in Europe,” he tweeted, “and that he will join Trump to stop the Iranian threat.”
Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria wrote on Twitter: “The Jews of France are now breathing a sigh of relief.”