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the pulpit

It’s not just the ambassador, it’s France itself

Israel is their punching bag, like the Jews once were. And the more complicated the world becomes, the harder they hit.

Eldad Beck (Facebook)
Eldad Beck

Gérard Araud has served as France’s ambassador to the United States since 2014—certainly time enough to have gained an appreciation of the complexity of Israel’s situation and its existential challenges, or more precisely, the threats it faces. During that period, Israel experienced the end of the Second Intifada and the Second Lebanon War. Two decades earlier, during the 1982 Lebanon War, Araud served as First Secretary of the French embassy in Tel Aviv.

Both these postings could have opened his eyes, had he been a fair, curious or thinking person.

But Araud perfectly represents French and European diplomatic arrogance. He and those like him in Paris and in the foreign ministries of London, Berlin, Madrid and Stockholm are still certain that their words shape the world, as they did in the era of European colonialism. So they allow themselves to treat Israel like “that crappy little country,” as one of Araud’s colleagues—the former French ambassador to Britain—put it. Israel is their punching bag, like the Jews once were. And the more complicated the world becomes, the harder they hit.

When Araud began his term as ambassador to Israel, Boaz Bismuth (then Israel Hayom’s correspondent in France and now editor-in-chief) heard Araud make some very undiplomatic remarks about the country. He called Israel “paranoid” and then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon a “boor.” He made the comments at a cocktail party, however, and not in any official capacity. Araud and the French Foreign Ministry did everything they could to prevent them from going public, but when they did it wasn’t Araud who was punished—it was Bismuth.

Araud hasn’t learned his lesson. And why should he have? Any self-respecting government would have called the ambassador in for a dressing down, frozen his appointment to Israel, recalled him and sent him to finish his diplomatic career in tougher locales. But when it comes to Israel, Paris—like the rest of the European capitals—abides by different rules. European diplomats consider attacks on Israel to be obvious, natural, desirable, and as a way to guarantee professional advancement. The more, the better.

So after calling Israel “paranoid” in a private conversation, Araud went on the record in an official interview as ambassador and accused the Israelis of having an “anti-French” mental disorder. This, too, was not grounds to recall the diplomat. Indeed, when he finally finished his time in Tel Aviv, France kicked Araud up the ladder and appointed him to one of the top posts in the Foreign Ministry, afterwards naming him France’s ambassador to the United Nations. From there, he was given the most prestigious job of all—representing his country in Washington. Now, as a parting gift, he is once again beating up on Israel, calling it an “apartheid state.” This astonishing courage might see him become a minister in French President Emmanuel Macron’s cabinet.

But Araud isn’t the problem. He is merely a symptom of the anti-Israeli—not to say anti-Semitic—mental disorder that afflicts French and European diplomats. The European envoys aren’t willing to forgive Israel, which against all the odds is not only disappearing from the maps, but flourishing. That disorder, which stems from primal hatred, is what lies beneath the rigid professional approach of French and European diplomacy on everything having to do with the Middle East, and what makes Europe the biggest obstacle to peace in our region.

Their grudge against Israel blinds most European diplomats to the changes and developments in the Middle East and makes them the biggest supporters of Israel’s enemies, from the PLO to the ayatollahs in Iran. There is not the slightest realistic element in this obsessive, hostile approach. French diplomacy needs to address its anti-Israel “disorder” as a matter of urgency.

Eldad Beck is an Israeli journalist and author.

This article first appeared on Israel Hayom.

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