Israel’s Foreign Ministry summoned French Ambassador Hélène Le Ga as a sign of protest against her Washington colleague’s statements, who accused Israel of exercising an “apartheid regime”, The Times of Israel reported.
“We strongly protested these words”, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon said on Tuesday, adding that the French diplomat was called out by Deputy Director-General Rodica Radian-Gordon, the head of the ministry’s European department.
France’s outgoing ambassador to the US, Gérard Araud, who earlier served as envoy to Israel between 2003 and 2006, butted in on the controversy, arguing that his comments given to The Atlantic magazine had to do with the state of affairs in the contested West Bank:
“I was referring to the West Bank”, Araud wrote on Tuesday in response to a tweet about Le Gal’s rebuke. However, Hahshon seems to have turned a deaf ear to the explanation, replying to Araud on Twitter that in the said interview he was “clearly” alluding to Israel.
“You know fully well that 90 percent of West Bank Palestinians are under PA [Palestinian Authority] rule. You know that the PA refuses systematically peace negotiations. Your statement was offensive and uncalled for”, the Israeli diplomat wrote emphatically, prompting a reply from Araud:
“Sorry. It was in the context of the peace process. I am not ashamed of my opinion and I know very well the issue. Yes, the West Bank. No Israël [sic]”.
In a 19 April interview, France’s now retired top diplomat in the US Araud pointed out that Israel was “extremely comfortable” with the limbo in the region “because they [can] have the cake and eat it”. He further proceeded to address the West Bank issue:
“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”.
He then denied the possibility of Israel making Palestinians citizens, arguing that they will have to declare it officially, “which is we know the situation [sic], which is an apartheid. There will be officially an apartheid state. They are in fact already”, Araud concluded. In the outspoken interview, he also discussed his views on the US administration’s much-anticipated peace plan.
Designed by POTUS Donald Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East adviser Jared Kushner, the projected plan will be “very close to what the Israelis want”, and is 99 percent “doomed to fail”, he argued, nevertheless assuming that “you never forget the 1 percent” as “Trump is uniquely able to push the Israelis, because he is so popular in Israel”. The diplomat shared that the plan is 50 pages long and is very much to the point, however its exact content has been kept under wraps.
Kushner recently said that the document will not be unveiled until June at the earliest, detailing to some 100 foreign diplomats that it will be rolled out after the new Israeli government is formally sworn in, around 5 June, when the Muslim holy month of Ramadan ends.