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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Israel considers banishing French diplomat who tussled with Border Police

Israel is considering taking action against one of the participants in an altercation that took place last week between European diplomats and Israeli Border Police officers, and is weighing whether to declare a French diplomat persona non-grata because of what officials say was inappropriate behavior for a diplomat, Haaretz has learned.

National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror is holding discussions to decide whether the French diplomat may be declared a persona non-grata. A decision has not yet been reached, but if such a measure is adopted, the diplomat, Marion Fesneau-Castaing, would no longer be afforded diplomatic immunity and would be banished from Israel.

“Diplomats are sent by their governments to act as a bridge and not as provocateurs,” the Foreign Ministry said. “The European diplomats and their governments owe an explanation for this blatant violation of diplomatic codes of conduct. Israel has already made it clear that it will not accept this misconduct. Israel's response will reflect the seriousness of these violations.”

The incident occurred on Friday, when several European diplomats and activists were trying to help Palestinians erect tents in the village of Khirbet Makhoul, where Israeli authorities had demolished illegally built homes earlier in the week.

Fesneau-Castaing is the cultural attaché for the French Consulate in Jerusalem. While the French Embassy in Tel Aviv is responsible for ties with Israel, the Jerusalem consulate is responsible for relations with the Palestinian Authority.

The Foreign Ministry said that videos of the incident show the Border Policemen and Israel Defense Forces soldiers at the scene did not exert any force against Castaing. In one of the videos, she is seen raising her hand and either punching or pushing a Border Police officer at the scene. Immediately afterward, the officer left the scene and filed a police complaint against Castaing.

The Foreign Ministry also said that Castaing refused a police request to get out of the Palestinian truck in which she was sitting, and when she eventually did get out, she laid herself on the ground and refused to move.

Following the incident Friday there were discussions between the Foreign Ministry and its French counterpart. Israel made it clear to the French that it viewed the incident as grave, and as a provocation by the French diplomat.

There was also a conversation Friday between the EU ambassador to Israel and senior Foreign Ministry officials, during which the EU envoy requested clarifications reagrding the incident. Following that conversation, the spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton issued a statement condemning the home demolitions at Khirbet Makhoul, saying such acts undermine the peace process.

The Foreign Ministry issued a scathing response to the EU statement on Sunday afternoon, saying, “Israel rejects the one-sided announcement which was published by the spokespersons of HR Ashton and Commissioner [Kristalina] Georgieva regarding the events in the Northern Jordan Valley. This announcement ignores the European diplomats’ blunt violation of the law, their disregard of a ruling of the Israeli court and their unnecessary provocation under the alleged pretext of humanitarian aid.”

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