Edelstein declares French president persona non grata in Knesset

French President Francois Hollande opts to address university students instead.

Hollande gesturing wildly, 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohammed Dabbous)
Hollande gesturing wildly, 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohammed Dabbous)
French President François Hollande is not welcome in the Knesset, Speaker Yuli Edelstein declared on Wednesday.
Hollande had decided to speak to university students, not the Knesset, during his visit to Israel in three weeks, and Edelstein responded to the snub in kind.
“Whoever disrespects the Knesset does not deserve the Knesset’s respect,” Edelstein wrote on Facebook.
“International leaders cannot belittle the Knesset, the elected parliament of the State of Israel, and ignore it.
As speaker of the Knesset I am determined to protect the dignity of our nation and its representatives, the MKs. I will not allow Israeli democracy to be humiliated and turned into a doormat.”
Previous French presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac gave speeches at the Knesset, and Hollande was scheduled to do so as well, but he canceled.
Explaining why no speech by Hollande at the Knesset was reason enough to refuse a meeting with the French president, Edelstein said, “There are 119 other MKs.
If Hollande chose to speak to students, imagine how those MKs would feel if he came and met with me and we had our picture taken together.”
New French Ambassador Patrick Maisonnave will not be invited to any official Knesset ceremonies, nor will other French dignitaries or ministers visiting here.
“There are plenty of events in universities. I’m sure the French officials will be too busy to find time for the Knesset,” Edelstein remarked sarcastically.
US President Barack Obama, on his visit here, also chose to address students and not the Knesset.
Edelstein said he was disappointed then, too, but the difference was that Obama had visited Israel shortly after the government was formed, and the Knesset was disorganized.
A French Embassy spokeswoman said she was “surprised” by Edelstein’s reaction, because Hollande’s schedule had not yet been finalized.
“There is no need to react like this,” she said. “The president wants to show his attachment to Israeli democracy and its representatives and wants to go to the Knesset. We are in touch with the Knesset to find the best time for [Hollande] to come, working with the Knesset’s scheduling constraints. We’re working on options and trying to be accommodating.”