Valerie Hoffenberg, France’s special envoy to the Middle East, reacted with dismay on Monday to news that she had been removed from her position the week before.
Speaking at the Conference for Regional Cooperation held in Tel Aviv, the Jewish diplomat said she was disappointed by her government’s decision to let her go for coming out against the Palestinian plan to unilaterally declare independence in September.
“I said that France’s decision was not decided yet but on a personal level I consider that asking for unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state was not a good idea,” she said.
“That despite being in favor of the creation of a state of Palestine I think the only way to do it correctly is by bilateral negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
I was urging the Palestinians to come back and reconsider their position.”
The former American Jewish Committee member, who has held several
positions in the party of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, said she
learned she had been sacked only after the spokesperson for the French
Foreign Ministry made the announcement to the press.
“I let everyone judge the way it was done but that’s life,” she said.
“When you get into politics you have to do it for what you can achieve
and what you can do and not titles or honors.”
Hoffenberg was made France’s special envoy to the Middle East by her
close political ally Sarkozy in 2008. In that capacity she helped
cultivate financial, educational and cultural ties between Israelis,
Palestinians and neighboring countries.
Former British prime minister Tony Blair, who in recent years has been
heavily involved in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians,
mentioned Hoffenberg by name in his speech at the conference in Tel Aviv
on Monday and praised her work.
The Jewish politician said she made plans to leave her position before
she was fired in order to focus on her campaign to become the first
elected official to the French parliament from a newly-created district
representing French expatriates in the eastern Mediterranean which
includes Israel, Greece and Turkey.
Hoffenberg used the occasion to fire back at other candidates in the
race to capture the 2012 French parliamentary seat who claimed she was
not pro-Israel enough.
“Some people here were skeptical about what I was doing and some of the
candidates wanted to categorize me as the spokesperson of the Quai
D’Orsay,” she said, referring to the French Foreign Ministry. “I think
they got their answers.” Despite the way her tenure as special envoy to
the Middle East came to an end, Hoffenberg was reluctant to criticize
her former boss and political ally Sarkozy.
“I had a phone call from the Elysee the next day and I’m very respectful
and thankful to the president for his support,” she said.
Asked if she knew how Sarkozy was leaning ahead of the expected vote on
Palestinian statehood at the UN in September, Hoffenberg said she did
“Because I know him very well I know he won’t accept anyone to make up his decision for him,” she said.