Lapid taps former health minister Yael German as Israel’s ambassador to France

Foreign minister announces appointment, as his office rejects reported criticism over incoming envoy’s lack of fluency in French

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Blue and White MK Yael German attends an event in Kfar Saba, on March 8, 2019. (Flash90)
File: Yael German, at the time a lawmaker for the Blue and White party, attends an event in Kfar Saba, on March 8, 2019. (Flash90)

Former health minister Yael German, in the past a member of Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, is to be Israel’s next ambassador to France, Lapid has announced.

Lapid also said that former Yesh Atid MK Shimon Solomon will be the envoy to Angola.

“German and Solomon will do wonderful work in representing Israel and its interests,” Lapid said in a statement Tuesday.

“I am happy. It wasn’t even a dream until they offered it to me,” German told 103FM Radio on Wednesday. “When Lapid [told me], I felt all my energy returning to me.”

German served in the Knesset in 2013-2020, but resigned in March 2020 due to health issues that included a stroke and cancer. She told the radio station that she has since been given a clean bill of health.

She said she intends to focus on improving the French image of the Jewish state by promoting cultural cooperation.

German said Lapid had initially offered her the post of ambassador to the UK, replacing incumbent Tzipi Hotovely who was appointed by the previous government. But Hotovely, who signed a three-year contract, refused to give up the position.

According to a report Thursday in the Ynet news site, German’s appointment is being criticized by some involved in Israel-France relations, including members of the French Jewish community, because the incoming ambassador doesn’t speak fluent French — a skill seen as important in a country that is known for its disdain toward English.

Yesh Atid MK Yael German attends a committee meeting at the Knesset on February 14, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The report noted that a non-French speaker is, for instance, far less likely to be invited for interviews on French television. It said community leaders and some French lawmakers had asked Lapid and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to appoint someone with mastery of the language and familiarity with the French mindset, in order to better communicate with the French public.

In response to the report, Lapid’s office said in a statement that knowing French was not a criterion for the job. A source in the office told Ynet that the appointment was intended to send a message to the French of the importance that Lapid attaches to ties with the country — as he was sending a close confidant.

“What is important is that the French know that Lapid sent to France someone 100 percent ‘of his own’ and that is the importance he attributes to France and its ties with Israel,” the source said. “German can pick up the phone directly to Lapid and he will answer it.”

Previous ambassador Aliza Ben Nun left her post in 2019 and there has not been an envoy in Paris since. The embassy was run by interim ambassador Daniel Saada.

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