GREER FAY CASHMAN
CURRENTLY SENIOR adviser to the political arm of J Street, the American pro-Israel, pro-peace movement, former diplomat and former MK Colette Avital has received a boost in
the recognition bestowed on her by France. Best known diplomatically as consul-general in New York, even though she had previously served as ambassador to Portugal, Avital
earlier in her diplomatic career was spokeswoman for the embassy in Paris, and has retained an affinity for France.
France also has an affinity to her and some years ago demonstrated that by making her a knight of its Legion of Honor. Last week Ambassador Christophe Bigot, acting on
behalf of President Nicolas Sarkozy, promoted her to officer of the Legion of Honor, and at a reception that he hosted to mark the occasion, spoke of the special connection
that Avital has with France and with the French language in which she is absolutely fluent.
He recalled the warm friendship she had enjoyed with Jacques Chirac when he was mayor of Paris and she was spokeswoman for the embassy. That friendship continued after
Chirac became president of France. Bigot also saluted Avital's efforts toward the advancement of peace, and praised her for the sterling work she had done when an MK to
trace the Israeli bank accounts of Holocaust victims and to have the funds transferred to their heirs.
In response Avital spoke of the significance of the values of liberty, equality and fraternity which France had given to the world and which had been her guidelines in all
her political battles. She thanked Sarkozy and the people of France for their support of Israel in its struggle for peace and thanked them again for thinking her worthy of
being an officer of the Legion of Honor.
Although she failed to gain a realistic place on Labor's Knesset list, Avital has remained an active member of the party, which would in part explain the presence of
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who is also Labor Party chairman, and Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog, who is tipped to be the next Labor Party leader.