France to Israel: We Backed Palestinians in Security Council to Prevent ICC Bid

Israeli diplomat meets French ambassador, conveys Israel's deep disappointment with France's vote in Security Council; French envoy says Paris wanted to encourage sides to return to negotiating table.

AFP

French ambassador to Israel Patrick Maisonnave reported to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem on Friday after being summoned over his country's vote in favor of the Palestinian statehood resolution at the UN Security Council earlier this week. French officials told Haaretz that Maisonnave clarified in the meeting that France voted for the resolution in order to try and prevent the Palestinians from pursuing other unilateral steps such as joining the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon said that the ministry's deputy director-general for Western Europe, Aviv Shir-On, told the French ambassador that Israel was deeply disappointed by France's stance and its vote in the UNSC. "The only way to reach progress with the Palestinians is through direct negotiations, not through unilateral announcements or a unilateral policy," Shir-On said at the meeting.

During the meeting, the French ambassador said that the international community is of one mind over the need to break the diplomatic stalemate and the dangerous status quo. According to him, France voted as it did in order to encourage the sides back to the negotiating table.

Maisonnave also said that France disagreed with several parts in the Palestinian resolution and therefore tried to formulate its own draft.

He noted that the vote was not aimed against Israel, but an effort to prevent further unilateral steps that would strengthen extremists on both sides. "That's exactly what happened after the Security Council rejected the proposal, and the Palestinians went to The Hague," the French ambassador said.

He added that France would keep trying to promote its own version of the resolution in the Security Council, presenting principles for the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on all the core issues of the conflict.

"The latest escalation is all the more reason to keep acting," he emphasized.

The Palestinian proposal calling for peace with Israel within a year and an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories by late 2017 failed to pass the UNSC vote on Tuesday, after only eight member states voted in its favor, one vote short of the requirement.

Israel's Foreign Ministry has been closely following the deteriorating relations with France, and even held a special meeting on the matter about two weeks ago. A source who took part in the meeting said participants conveyed a sense that France is less attuned to Israel's positions on the Palestinian matter.

Moreover, over the past three months the Foreign Ministry has identified several incidents in which events, delegations, and planned collaborations with French bodies were canceled in the last minute. Among these were a Paris conference of Israeli and French high-tech companies and a visit by a delegation of French lawyers in Israel.

A senior official said that in each of these cases a different reason was given, and that on the face of it they were unconnected. It is also unclear if the French government was behind the cancellations. However, the overall impression is that of deteriorating relations. "There is a sense that the French are trying to link the progress in the peace process to the promotion of bilateral ties with Israel," the official said.

In addition to these incidents, there is also the recent vote in the French parliament calling on the government to recognize the Palestinian state.