Accusing new government of violating democracy, Israel’s envoy to France resigns

Lapid appointee Yael German says she cannot ‘lie to herself’ and go against her beliefs; informs Paris of her intention to step down

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Knesset member Yael German at a committee meeting in the Knesset on January 1, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Knesset member Yael German at a committee meeting in the Knesset on January 1, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Israel’s Ambassador to France Yael German, an ally of former prime minister Yair Lapid, resigned on Thursday, accusing his successor, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his incoming government of violating the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the vision of a Jewish, democratic state.

In a letter to Netanyahu, German said she was unable to “to lie to myself and continue to represent policies that are so radically different from what I believe in.”

German said she was proud to represent Israel and the outgoing government, which was based on “democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.”

“Sadly,” she added, “the government you established and lead includes representatives of parties whose extreme positions are expressed in its guidelines, in its policies, and in statements on legislation — illegitimate in my eyes — that it intends to pass.”

The Netanyahu-led 37th government was sworn in and took office Thursday evening.

German, who started her political career in the left-wing Meretz party, entered the Knesset with Lapid’s Yesh Atid in 2013 and served as health minister from 2013 to 2014.

Israel’s envoy to France is generally a political appointment, and Netanyahu would have been likely to replace her at some point had she not stepped down.

A French official told The Times of Israel that German had updated Paris of her intention to resign. There was a farewell meeting at the Quai d’Orsay ten days ago, at which the French Foreign Ministry director-general for political affairs noted France’s opposition to Israel’s expulsion of French-Palestinian human rights lawyer Salah Hamouri.

Salah Hamouri (R) arrives in Paris after he was deported from Israel, on December 18, 2022 (Daphné BENOIT / AFP)

Israel has said Hamouri was still active in a terror group, years after he was released from jail in 2011 for a plot to kill a prominent rabbi. He has denied all the allegations against him.

“We condemn today the Israeli authorities’ decision, against the law, to expel Salah Hamouri to France,” the French foreign ministry said in a statement.

The French official added that German was especially effective around the September bilateral conference on antisemitism in Paris, but that the France-Israel relationship was managed mainly through President Emmanuel Macron’s personal ties with Lapid.

Lapid and Macron have a warm relationship stretching back to before either of them was in a leadership role. Lapid took the unusual step of endorsing Macron in the 2017 presidential election, and Macron seemed to return the favor by hosting him at the Elysee Palace in Paris only four days before the April 2019 elections in Israel. In late November 2021, Lapid visited Paris and met with Macron at the end of a three-day trip to Europe.

Prime Minister Yaïr Lapid (left) with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee palace in Paris, on July 5, 2022. (Amos Ben-Gershom / GPO)

As foreign minister in the outgoing government, Lapid made a point of improving Israel’s relationship with France.

Lapid appointed German as ambassador in 2021, a move met with some dismay as she does not speak native-level French.

“In France particularly, knowledge of the language is critical,” said Maia Sion-Tzidkiyahu, director of the program on Israel–Europe relations at Mitvim, a foreign policy think tank. “It’s critical for the ability of the ambassador to reach media outlets, for example.”

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