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French foreign minister demands ceasefire, decries ‘settler violence’ in first Israel visit

Netanyahu thanks France for support in ICJ and mediation with Lebanon

French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Feb. 5, 2024 (Photo: Haim Zach/GPO)

Newly-appointed French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné visited Israel as part of a Middle East tour at the start of his term in office, meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Israel Katz on Monday.

Despite publicly supporting Israel since Oct. 7, Séjourné's remarks revealed substantial differences of opinion between the allied nations.

Séjourné used his visit, “as a friend,” to tell Israeli leaders some truths they “may have difficulties hearing,” as he told reporters at a press conference following his meeting with Netanyahu.

Part of these “truths” was Séjourné's demand for a ceasefire in Israel's ongoing fight against the Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

“For four months now, the people of Gaza have been living under bombs and an almost full siege. They are being deprived of the minimum aid they need to treat their wounds, protect against epidemics, and feed themselves,” Séjourné claimed.

Despite stressing that the French government “strongly supported Israel’s right to defend itself” Séjourné decried the death and destruction in the Gaza Strip.

“The tragedy in Gaza must end,” the foreign minister said. “We call for international humanitarian law to be respected by all and for an immediate and lasting cease-fire and a massive influx of humanitarian aid.”

Séjourné went on to strongly reject the idea of creating Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip, which was recently publicly supported by several Israeli ministers.

“Under no circumstances can there be forced displacement of Palestinians, neither out of Gaza nor out of the West Bank,” Séjourné said, according to a France24 news report.

He, instead, called to support and renew the Palestinian Authority (PA) to enable it to take control of the Gaza Strip, which Netanyahu has vehemently rejected.

“The future of the Gaza Strip is inseparable from the future of the West Bank, we must prepare for this future by supporting the Palestinian Authority,” Séjourné said. “It must renew itself and redeploy as soon as possible in the Gaza Strip. I repeat: Gaza is Palestinian land.”

In addition, Séjourné called to curb “settler violence” and rejected calls to “war crimes” from Israelis against Palestinians.

Despite these “harsh truths,” which were also discussed during their meeting, Netanyahu thanked the nation of France for its consistent support “against the savagery from day one, your position on the ICJ and this absurd accusation of genocide against Israel... and also the effort to help with humanitarian medical assistance, and – of course – our cooperation on the question of Lebanon.”

France is a former Mandate power in Lebanon and has been instrumental in negotiations between Israel, Lebanon and Hezbollah in an attempt to cool the tensions.

After Séjourné met with Katz, he rejected his warning that the time for diplomacy was running out, stating that in the case of a violent confrontation, France would take military measures to safeguard its approximately 20,000 French nationals residing there.

Katz also followed up with Séjourné regarding the French vow to publish proof that a shipment of medication intended for Israeli hostages in Gaza had been delivered as promised.

France’s top diplomat threatened “serious consequences” in the case that it turned out the medicines hadn’t been delivered as promised, according to Israel’s Channel 12 news.

“We know that the medications effectively entered into Gaza,” a French diplomat told the Times of Israel under the condition of anonymity.

“The modalities of their transfer to the hostages were dealt with under Qatar’s mediation. We now expect to receive verifiable proof that the medications have reached their beneficiaries.”

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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