Last updated: 27 September, 2013

French diplomat in West Bank aid row is going home, says Israel

A French diplomat who allegedly struck an Israeli policeman in a confrontation in the West Bank is returning home by agreement between the two governments, an Israeli official said Friday.

“She’s going to be going home,” the foreign ministry official told AFP, referring to Marion Fesneau-Castaing, who had been serving at the French consulate-general in Jerusalem.

“This does not affect the very good relations between ourselves and the French,” the official said on condition of anonymity, adding that the two sides had decided to “play it low-key.”

The French consulate-general refused to comment.

The French foreign ministry would neither confirm nor deny that Fesneau-Castaing’s term was being cut short, saying only that French and Israeli authorities had sought a solution which would preserve “bilateral relations and the personal situation” of the diplomat.

The incident occurred on September 20, when Israeli troops and border police used force to disperse a group of European diplomats as they tried to hand out tents to Palestinian Bedouin whose West Bank homes were demolished by the army.

A European diplomatic source said Fesneau-Castaing was dragged out of an aid truck by Israeli soldiers, who later confiscated the vehicle.

Pictures showed her lying in the dust, but Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Paul Hirschson said that she lay down of her own accord as an act of “passive resistance.”

“She was removed from the vehicle… Then she dropped herself onto the ground… Nobody threw her on the floor,” he told AFP.

“There was violence from her side when she stood up and she walked over and she punched the officer in the face,” Hirschson added.

The website of the Jerusalem Post daily ran video showing a woman it identified as Fesneau-Castaing striking a helmeted border policeman on the chin with her fist.

An EU statement “deplored” Israel’s seizure of the tents, while Israel called the diplomats involved “provocateurs”.