The French government insists Israel must withdraw to the 1949-1967 ceasefire line in the West Bank (the “Green Line”) in order to achieve peace with the Palestinians. France holds it to be an “international border” and deems any Israeli presence beyond it to be an illegal settlement built on foreign soil. Even in Jerusalem, where the Green Line – back then an eerie, barbed wire no-man’s land — cut off one half of the city from the other and deprived Israelis and Jews from any access to the holiest of all Jewish holy places: the Western Wall.
The proper Israeli answer to France should be: We dare you.
It’s a matter of logic, indeed. If the Green Line is an international border, everything located west of it in pre-1967 Israel is indisputably Israeli. This is the case, in particular, of the Kiryah, the hill where the Israeli parliament and government are located. As a consequence, France should acknowledge West Jerusalem as the rightful capital of Israel and transfer without delay its embassy from Tel Aviv to there.
The fact is, however, that the French are not as logical as they claim to be, and that while regarding East Jerusalem as part of some half-born “state of Palestine,” they do not see West Jerusalem as part of Israel, either.
Go for instance to France Diplomatie, the French Foreign Ministry website. It just posted the returns for the first round of the parliamentary elections held on June 3 in the eleven “residing abroad” constituencies. What you will learn about the eighth constituency is that it comprises the following countries: Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jerusalem, Malta, and Turkey. Yes, Jerusalem as a separate entity, distinct from Israel.
French diplomatic mail, when sent to any destination in Jerusalem, including the pre-1967 western sector, is directed to “Jerusalem, via Israel.” Upon delivering documents to French citizens, the French consular authorities in Israel routinely fail to ascribe any place in the Jerusalem area, including outside the city’s limits, to Israel.
Last February, the French consulate in Jerusalem did not allow a French retired couple living in the Emek Refaim vicinity in the pre-1967 sector to say in a formal request that their home was located in Israel. In an even more troubling incident, the city of Mevaseret Zion, a few miles west of Jerusalem on the road to Tel Aviv, was not registered on a birth certificate as belonging to Israel. The consular authorities usually mollify their stand once the citizens they are dealing with are not going to give in. It is, however, very difficult not to believe that such behavior is part of a broader, deliberate policy.
In his thoroughly researched book Betrayal: France, the Arabs and the Jews, David Pryce-Jones made clear that both anti-Jewish prejudice and pro-Arab or pro-Islamic infatuations have run high at Quai d’Orsay, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, since the 19th century. Even if France’s actual policies as a colonial power in Arab and Muslim lands were not as generous to the Muslim natives as one would have expected.