Le Drian, whose remarks made him one of the first senior French officials to use the term “apartheid” in reference to Israel, referred to the Palestinians but also to the violent riots by Arab Israelis that broke out in several towns and villages. amid recent fighting with terrorist groups in Gaza.
Speaking at an event in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu expressed “strong protest against the French government and the outrageous comments by the French foreign minister on television.”
He dismissed Le Drian’s comments as “a cheeky and false claim that has no basis.” In the State of Israel, all citizens are equal before the law, regardless of their ethnicity. Israel is a beacon of democracy and human rights in our region… We will not suffer any hypocritical and false moral reprimand on this matter. “
French Minister of European and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian arrives for a dinner at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris on May 17, 2021 (Ludovic Marin / AFP)
In Sunday’s interview, Le Drian said that “the risk of apartheid is high” if Israel were to continue to act “according to a single state logic”, and also if it maintained the status quo.
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“Even the status quo does this,” he said.
The term apartheid refers to the white supremacist oppression of blacks in South Africa from 1948 to 1991.
Israel has long categorically denied accusations of apartheid, claiming that its Arab minority enjoys full civil rights, as well as the term “occupation” to describe its activities in the West Bank and Gaza. He views Gaza, from which he withdrew soldiers and settlers in 2005, a hostile entity led by the Islamic terrorist group Hamas, and views the West Bank as contested territory subject to peace negotiations – which collapsed more than ten years. Israel also highlights the existence of the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the West Bank under the Oslo accords.
The past few weeks have seen an escalation of ethnic tensions between Jews and Arabs inside Israeli towns alongside the armed conflict with terrorist groups in Gaza. Protests by Arab Israelis against Israeli policies in Jerusalem and Gaza erupted into violent mob attacks. Jewish extremists retaliated with revenge attacks.
Two people, an Arab and a Jew, were killed in separate incidents in the town of Lod, and dozens were injured in clashes across the country, many seriously.