Israel has summoned the French ambassador to the country after another French diplomat, Paris’s outgoing envoy in Washington Helene Le Gal, likened the country to an apartheid state because of its occupation of the West Bank.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry gave Ms Le Gal a “verbal reprimand” over comments made by Gerard Araud in The Atlantic magazine on April 19.
In that retirement interview, he said that US President Donald Trump’s peace plan would likely avoid giving Palestinians any hope of a sovereign state.
“So they will have to make it official, which is we know the situation, which is an apartheid,” Mr Araud told The Atlantic.
“There will be officially an apartheid state. They are in fact already.”
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said: “We firmly protested the remark.”
Mr Araud, who served as France’s ambassador to Israel from 2003 to 2006, responded on Twitter to the reports of Ms Le Gal’s dressing-down, saying he was “referring to the West Bank” and not Israel.
He said Israel’s 52-year occupation of the occupied West Bank and its construction and expansion of settlements had imposed two separate laws for Israelis and Palestinians “on the same territory with one people dominating the other”.
“No, Israel itself is obviously not an apartheid state,” he said.
Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have been frozen since a US peace push collapsed in 2014 amid mutual recriminations.
US President Donald Trump’s administration has been working on a peace proposal, with Jared Kushner – Mr Trump’s son-in-law and point-man for the issue – saying it would be presented after Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month which ends in early June.
Israel occupied the West Bank in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said ahead of an April 9 general election, in which he won a fifth term, that he planned to annex Israeli settlements in the territory.
If done on a large scale, the move could effectively end remaining hopes for a two-state solution to the conflict.
The settlements are built on land the Palestinians consider part of their future state. – The National