'Exclusion from Schalit deal prompted liar remark'

Sarkozy reportedly says he was "furious" Israel refused to fly Schalit out of captivity on a French helicopter.

December 7, 2011 23:45
1 minute read.
PM Netanyahu with French President Sarkozy [file]

PM Netanyahu with French President Nicolas Sarkozy 311. (photo credit: Amos Ben-Gershom / GPO)

The riddle of why French President Nicolas Sarkozy called Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu a liar last month is now solved: Israel would not fly Gilad Schalit to freedom on a French aircraft.

That, at least, was the reason Sarkozy gave to French Jewish leaders at a meeting late last month in Paris, according to the French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur.

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According to the report last week, Sarkozy – explaining his very undiplomatic comment about Netanyahu to US President Barack Obama in November – said that he was “furious” that Israel refused to fly Schalit out of captivity on a French helicopter.

Government sources confirmed that a French request to fly Schalit from either Gaza or Egypt to Israel was made, presumably to increase France’s visibility and give Paris some credit for Schalit’s release. The sources said that while French officials were publicly very helpful and outspoken about Schalit, the mediation for his release was done by Egypt and Germany.

Schalit, by virtue of a French grandmother, has dual Israeli-French citizenship.

One government source said that for symbolic reasons it was out of the question that an Israeli soldier – for whose freedom Israel released hundreds of terrorists – would return to Israel in anything but an Israeli aircraft.

The source also wondered out loud whether this was truly the reason Sarkozy hurled the “liar” epithet at Netanyahu. According to the source, it was more likely that Sarkozy – who, along with a number of European colleagues is urging the prime minister to implement another settlement construction freeze – was frustrated that while Netanyahu talks about his desire for peace, he is not taking the actions Sarkozy recommends to make it happen.

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