French envoy fired for opposing PA statehood bid

Valerie Hoffenberg learned of her dismissal only from official announcement.

By GIL STERN STERN SHEFLER
September 5, 2011 22:08
2 minute read.
Valerie Hoffman and Shimon Peres.

Valerie Hoffman and Shimon Peres 311. (photo credit: Wikimedia)

 
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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.

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“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 not know.

“Because I know him very well I know he won’t accept anyone to make up his decision for him,” she said.

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