French envoy summoned after ambassador to U.S. calls Israel 'apartheid state'

“Israel adamantly protested those remarks,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

April 30, 2019 21:45
3 minute read.
Hélène Le Gal, nouvel ambassadeur de France en Israël

Hélène Le Gal, nouvel ambassadeur de France en Israël. (photo credit: MARINE CROUZET/AMBASSADE DE FRANCE EN ISRAEL)

Israel on Monday summoned France’s ambassador to Israel, Helene Le Gal, to the Foreign Ministry to protest comments by outgoing French Ambassador to the US Gerard Araud, who said that Israel is an apartheid state.

“Israel adamantly protested those remarks,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman said. Senior officials have also reportedly been instructed not to meet Araud, who served from 2003 to 2006 as France’s ambassador to Israel, on an upcoming visit.
Earlier in the month, Araud said in an interview with The Atlantic that Israel was already an apartheid state.

“The status quo is extremely comfortable for Israel because they [can] have the[ir] cake and eat it [too]. They have the West Bank, but at the same time they don’t have to make the painful decision about the Palestinians – really making them really, totally stateless or making them citizens of Israel.

“They won’t make them citizens of Israel, so they will have to make it official – which is – we know the situation, which is an apartheid. There will be officially an apartheid state. They are, in fact, already,” Araud said.

The French embassy had no comment on the matter.

Araud, however, clarified in various tweets on Tuesday that he was referring to the West Bank.

“In 52 years of occupation, what has been incrementally imposed on the West Bank through the colonization is: two people, two laws on the same territory with one people dominating the other. No, Israel itself is obviously not an apartheid state,” he wrote in one tweet.

In another, he added: “I am not backpedaling. Israel is not an apartheid state. Why [is] this issue... attracting so much passion from both sides?”

Araud’s comment and Israel’s reaction come fast on the heels of a sharp disagreement between Paris and Jerusalem over Israel’s decision to deduct money, which the PA pays terrorists in Israeli jails and their families, from the monthly tax funds it transfers to the Palestinian Authority,

France, according to a Channel 12 report, demanded that Israel renew the transfer of the funds. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded in a letter to the French, according to the report, that the request was “morally and politically incorrect” and contrary to the European principles of how to fight terrorism. He also said that Israel will “continue to act in accordance with the law of the Knesset.”

Meir Habib, a French-Israeli politician representing French residents overseas, issued a statement saying that he was saddened by the deterioration in ties between France and Israel.

“Every month, we are witness to initiatives and declarations that are not compatible with relations between friendly countries,” he said. “Only a few days ago, France demanded that Israel free up the money it had subtracted from payments to the Palestinian Authority – and now France did not even respond or condemn the words of the former French ambassador, and I am saddened by this and hope that the situation will improve.”

Just a few days before the April 9 election, French President Emmanuel Macron hosted Blue and White Party co-leader Yair Lapid in Paris in what was widely viewed as an attempt at boosting Lapid’s diplomatic credentials before the voting to counterbalance visits Netanyahu made to Washington and Moscow in the days before the election.

Araud is not the first senior French diplomat to have made highly disparaging remarks about Israel. In 2001, France’s ambassador to the United Kingdom was quoted in a private conversation as saying that, “All the current troubles in the world are because of that shitty little country Israel.” He added: “Why should the world be in danger of World War III because of those people?”

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