Israel summons French envoy over "apartheid" remarks
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Israel has summoned the French envoy and reprimanded her after the outgoing French ambassador to the United States said Israel's West Bank occupation amounted to "apartheid".
In a retirement interview with The Atlantic magazine published on 19 April, Gerard Araud discussed the yet unpublished plan the United States has been working on to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In the article, titled "The French Ambassador Is Retiring Today. Here’s What He Really Thinks About Washington", Araud said Israel would seek to avoid giving Palestinians a state or Israeli citizenship and as a result, "they will have to make it official".
"There will be officially an apartheid state," Araud told The Atlantic. "They are, in fact, already."
Israeli authorities slammed the French ambassador's remarks.
The foreign ministry summoned Paris envoy to Israel, Helene Le Gal, on Monday for a "verbal reprimand" over Araud's comment.
"We firmly protested the remark," spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said in a statement.
Araud, who served as France's ambassador to Israel from 2003 to 2006, responded on Twitter to the reports of Le Gal's dressing down, saying he was "referring to the West Bank" and not Israel.
EM Tweet Araud Israel
I was referring to the West Bank.Gérard Araud (@GerardAraud) April 30, 2019
He said Israel's 52-year occupation of the West Bank and its construction and expansion of settlements had imposed two separate sets of 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 -- 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 Six-Day War of 1967.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said ahead of the 9 April 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 see as part of their future state.
The Israeli press reported that all Israeli officials have been banned from meeting Araud, who is expected to arrive in Israel in the coming days.