New Ambassador to France Not Fluent in French

The Eiffel Tower and the La Défense district, Paris, France. (David McSpadden)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s appointment of a former member of his Yesh Atid party whose French was described as “not fluent” has encountered some criticism, Ynet reported on Thursday.

Lapid’s choice was Yael German, a former health minister, who left politics in 2020 due to serious health issues, from which she says she has since recovered.

The criticism of German’s appointment reportedly came from some involved in Israel-France relations, including members of the French Jewish community, because an ambassador to France speaking imperfect French will be seriously handicapped in a country notorious for its contempt of poor French speakers.

Actually, German’s profile on the Knesset website lists English and French as her languages, though it does not note the level of proficiency.

In her comments to the media, however, German did not address the problem.

“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.”

She said she intends to focus on improving Israel’s image in France by promoting cultural cooperation.

Lapid’s office contested the supposition that knowing French is a perquisite for the post. A source there told Ynet that the appointment was intended to indicate the importance that Lapid attaches to ties with the country, by 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.”

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