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.
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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.
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
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
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
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.