Diplomatic Gaffe |

Israeli Ministers Snub Dinner With French Counterparts

Two deputies attend the event in Jerusalem, but only one Israeli minister. Another showed up in the middle when it was learned the turnout was low.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

A formal dinner for visiting French cabinet members became an embarrassment in Jerusalem Sunday when most of the Israeli ministers invited didn’t show up.

“It’s disgraceful,” a high-ranking Foreign Ministry official said, with he and colleagues particularly angry over the absence of Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who backed out at the last moment.

Six French ministers accompanied President Francois Hollande on his trip to Israel, during which Iran’s nuclear program was a key topic. The most senior was Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici.

The Foreign Ministry held the event during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s own dinner with Hollande. Invitations were sent to several Israelis more than a week ago, but many bowed out over the past few days. On Sunday morning an official from Lapid’s office told the ministry that Lapid would be represented by his deputy, Mickey Levy.

“It seems it wasn’t important enough for the ministers. After all, we’re talking about France,” a senior Foreign Ministry official said, his sarcasm apparent.

Another ministry official said Lapid’s cancellation was particularly infuriating since during a visit to Paris, Lapid asked for and received meetings with France’s top ministers. “It seems that the French economy isn’t big enough for Lapid,” the official said.

A spokesman for Lapid said the invitation arrived over the weekend on very short notice.

“Because of urgent meetings that could not be canceled, Deputy Finance Minister Mickey Levy represented Finance Minister Yair Lapid at the event,” the spokesman said. In any case, Lapid and Moscovici were due to meet Monday.

It was unclear why Science and Technology Minister Jacob Perry didn’t make it to the dinner, and Energy and Water Resources Minister Silvan Shalom canceled because he was traveling abroad.

Deputy Interior Minister Faina Kirshenbaum backed out to attend the swearing-in ceremony of the president of Georgia. A deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Ofir Akunis, canceled at the last minute.

Ultimately, only Levy, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz and Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin showed up. Strategic and Intelligence Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz arrived unexpectedly in the middle of the meal; Netanyahu had sent him after he heard that the event was so poorly attended.

French President Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at their press conference on Sunday.Credit: AFP

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