The French president's upcoming visit to Israel
has stirred a diplomatic firestorm which may put a strain on relations between Jerusalem and Paris. Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein
is boycotting the visit after Francois Hollande
decided not to appear before the Knesset,
Yedioth Ahronoth reported.
Hollande is expected to arrive in Israel in late November for a three-day state visit. Ahead of the visit, the French Embassy approached the Speaker's chambers to coordinate a meeting with Edelstein and a speech at the plenum.
It should be noted that protocol does not require a foreign head of state visiting Israel to appear before the Knesset. Such speeches are usually arranged on the invitation of the Knesset or on the guest's initiative.
However, the Élysée Palace recently decided that Hollande should speak directly to the Israeli people at one of Israel's universities, instead of appearing before parliament, similarly to President Barack Obama's decision during his March visit. The Palace stressed that the president would still visit the Knesset and meet with Edelstein as planned.
An outraged Edelstein told the embassy if the president will not address the MKs he should not visit the Knesset at all. He therefore ordered that the Knesset visit be canceled as well as his own meeting with Hollande.
He went further by stating that "until further notice" the French ambassador and other French officials visiting Israel will not be invited to formal gatherings at the Knesset due to "an offence to the Israeli parliament."
A Knesset official explained the decision on Tuesday. "If the French president had canceled the speech altogether, that's his prerogative. But once he decided that the Knesset, which represents the people, is not respectable enough for him and that he'd rather do the speech outside, that's an insult to Israeli democracy and the Israeli people.
"The Knesset plenum has hosted the US president, the British premier, the German chancellor, the Italian prime minister and former French presidents to name but a few – and they all addressed the plenum."
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