A senior Health Ministry official unwittingly met with the secretary general of France’s far-right political party last week, but halted the meeting as soon as his identity became clear, the ministry said.
Arnon Afek, the ministry’s deputy director, attended the meeting, which was billed as focused on medical cooperation, and did not know Nicolas Bay represented the National Front, ministry spokesman Eyal Basson said on Saturday.
Basson said the meeting was halted within five minutes.
Israel has no official ties to the party because of its far-right ideology and history of anti-Semitism. Party leader Marine Le Pen is a leading presidential candidate in the upcoming election.
Bay tweeted photos of his meetings with various Israeli officials, including Afek, an Israeli medical commander, a leading member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, the leader of the party’s youth organization, and other civil society leaders. Those with an army colonel and Afek were later deleted.
— Nicolas Bay (@nicolasbayfn) January 26, 2017
Last week, the Haaretz daily reported that Bay was visiting to meet French citizens living in Israel and shore up French Jewish support, and to meet Israeli politicians.
His meetings come as members of other far-right parties in Europe have paid visits to Israel and sought to forge ties with the Jewish state, though some in Israel and abroad have expressed misgivings over making common cause with the groups.
“The meeting with Mr. Bay was unofficial and took place by coincidence,” said David Shayan, head of the Likud party’s youth group. “Likud Youth has no interest in involvement with the political process and elections in France.” He declined to say what was discussed in the meeting.