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There Is No Inevitability in History

There Is No Inevitability in History

Speech by M. Michel Barnier, French Minister of Foreign Affairs, at Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, October 19, 2004. Source: French Embassy, London.

Thank you, dear Itamar Rabinovitch and Eli Barnavi, for your warm welcome.

I am very touched to be here at this prestigious university, and that all of you, dear friends, have come here for this dialogue with me.

Apart from official contacts, a meeting such as this gives me an opportunity to become better acquainted with and better understand Israeli society, which is so dynamic, so creative – and at times so tormented as well. Finally, I am happy to have this opportunity to speak to the generations that embody the future of this country and will shape the Israel of tomorrow.

I am ending my first official visit to Israel – the first visit exclusively devoted to Israel by a French foreign minister in a long time – in this place devoted to reflection, critical thinking and research.

During the past two days, I have been discovering and rediscovering this country that is like no other.

I have met or become reacquainted with the men and women who are continuing the work begun by the country’s founders, courageous and visionary people who enabled the State of Israel to come into existence 56 years ago. I have spoken to your country’s political leaders, journalists, academics, French and Israeli entrepreneurs, and fellow citizens tragically hit by the terrorism.

As soon as I arrived, I visited Yad Vashem and Roglit to meditate in these so emotionally-charged places, where every visitor is filled with immense respect, immense compassion in the face of the suffering of millions of men, women and children sacrificed because they were Jewish.

  • France-Israel

I wanted to make this particular visit in order to take the time to establish a real contact with Israel and the Israeli people.

We have to take this time. I want to take it.

The relationship between our two countries – one some describe as "passionate" – the complexity of the regional environment, the often harsh judgement made here of the attitudes of France and Europe, convinced me that we had first and foremost to talk to one another, exchange ideas, hold discussions.

You know from experience: debate does not always imply agreement. But if there’s a debate, there’s already respect for the other party.

This is very much the case with France and Israel, with the French and the Israelis. We go from irritation to passion, as befits, when all is said and done, the esteem we have for one another, the interest we have in one another.

I’d like to say a word about the history of this relationship, which explains a great deal:

It’s a history that goes back to the origins of the State of Israel. Newly created by the United Nations, this young State was already threatened, its existence was already at stake. At that time it was able to count on the support of a few countries, including mine.

Denying Israel’s right to exist was and still is denying the law. France and Israel fought this negation together.

France’s profound sympathy for this nascent State was natural at a time when the defeat of Nazism was revealing the abomination of the Holocaust.

France, herself martyred, has not denied her share of responsibility in the tragedy. President Chirac himself declared on France’s behalf, following his election in 1995: "Those black hours forever tarnish our history and are an affront to our past and our traditions. France, country of human rights, land of welcome and exile – France, that day [16 July 1942], was committing the irreparable. Yes, the criminal insanity of the occupier was assisted by the French people, by the French State."

Faced with this betrayal of our heritage, thousands of the Just did their utmost, putting their lives on the line to protect so many Jews. They were worthy of their forerunners who had cleared the name of Alfred Dreyfus.

They and others saved France’s honour. The generations who followed, including my own, are forever in their debt.

But our common history goes back much further. It is in fact much more ancient and perhaps much richer than we imagine.

Already, the French Revolution had given Jewish citizens the same rights as everyone else. Napoleon created the Consistory to guarantee Judaism an institutional voice. There were and are still many French Jews distinguishing themselves in the arts, in politics, in science. If I may name just one, I would like to pay tribute to the memory and work of Jacques Derrida, who passed away two weeks ago.

I haven’t come to talk only about the past, but also about the future.

  • Europe

As some of you know, I’ve always devoted a large part of my public life to a great project, building political Europe.

In the beginning, this project, headed by a few visionary politicians – Robert Schuman, Jean Monnet, Konrad Adenauer – was a dream, a utopia: to reconcile France and Germany after a century and a half punctuated by wars – those wars among Europeans which Victor Hugo characterized as "civil wars" – and then bring in the countries of Southern Europe, which had barely emerged from dictatorships and whose development lagged behind; and then enlarge this Union again, after the British Isles, to the Northern countries, beyond its continental birthplace; and, recently, welcome or rather reintegrate, the nations of Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltic States, only yesterday still crushed under the Soviet yoke.

The advance of civilization, peace and stability is not over. The time is coming when we shall have to establish the final borders of this union. This is the purpose of our debate over Turkey’s candidacy.

Yes, in 50 years, this dream has become a reality. Behind the dry directives, austere regulations and endless negotiations, Brussels is putting forward a project for the future, a reason to hope, a destiny for the entire European continent.

To hope and to vanquish – by the power of sheer will – the law of the past, the inevitability of war and hatred.

Europe is not offering itself as an example to the world. Indeed, it’s certainly not always exemplary.

But the very existence of a united, peaceful, prosperous greater Europe provides proof that peace is always possible wherever there is a will, that hereditary enemies can become partners, that hatred can fade and that there is only one inevitability – geography. Israel and Palestine will eternally remain side by side. Israelis and Palestinians will have to live side by side.

I’m not trying to preach to you. Europe is watching you and suffering with you the ordeals it sees every day on television – your daily life haunted by violence, suffering, fear. It understands the tension you are living under. It knows how much the blind violence of the attacks affects and appals a population who feel isolated, under siege. It has known the horror of war and despair.

I’ve also come to tell you that Europe is here, close to you. Ready to listen to you, to help you, even in the most practical and concrete aspects of your future.

  • Israel - Europe - France -Economy

Economically, first of all.

The EU is your leading partner, accounting for 40% of your imports and 30% of your exports. It is an essential market – with 450 million consumers – for your start-ups and your technologies. It has already opened its programmes to you, including the European Research and Development Programme and Galileo.

But our exchanges are first of all human. France is the leading European tourist destination for Israeli travellers and the second-largest worldwide. French visitors to Israel outnumber those from elsewhere. France is in the forefront of these exchanges. Your ability to thrive in the future will also be supported by the investments of French companies, more and more of which have chosen Israel, like Véolia, which is currently building a very large seawater desalination plant in Ashkelon – 120 million m³, for an investment of €250 million – and Alstom, which is building Jerusalem’s first tramway.

These investments reflect the confidence of France and French businesses in the vitality of your society.

Moreover, two democracies such as ours have things to say to each other, ideas to exchange, common projects to support.

My ambition, as French Foreign Minister, is to see increasing opportunities for our companies to get to know and understand each other.

This can come though research, with the establishment of joint programmes in genomics and mathematics, enabling the best teams, the best laboratories to work together. But it also comes through youth exchanges, through the cooperation between cities and regions and university exchange programmes.

Because right now we aren’t meeting often enough; we don’t talk enough. We often confine ourselves to prejudices, with the angry but also a bit too comfortable conviction that we’re not understood, that no attempt is being made to understand us. That’s why I’m delighted that the Institut Français de Recherche de Jérusalem is becoming established at The Hebrew University to make such daily exchanges possible.

  • French language - OIF

Let me add a special word about the French language.

Your universities have internationally-known French departments. They are naturally called on to take part in the activities of the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie [AUF]. I would like to invite them to embark on this path by starting the membership process with the AUF offices.

Indeed, La Francophonie [international Francophone organization] is a real asset when it comes to the future of our relations, thanks to the essential role of Francophone Israelis. Israel is the second-largest Francophone country in the Middle East. During President Katsav’s State Visit, President Chirac reminded him of our support for Israel’s membership of La Francophonie. I hope she will soon become part of that organization, even if the process must take place in stages.

  • France - Israel - Palestine

The time has come to renew our relationship. Established in the summer of 2002, the High Level Group co-chaired with great skill by Professor David Khayat and Ambassador Yehudah Lancry has established the major orientations of this project.

Our two nations do not stand face to face; they are side by side. Think of France today as what she is: a friend within a political partnership, the EU.

Partnership implies a certain candour on both sides. And before talking about what we can do tomorrow, we have to discuss the current situation.

For how can we deny it? Europeans in general, and not just the French, are having a hard time accepting the constant worsening of the Palestinians’ lot.

Naturally, Israelis have the right to protect and defend themselves, but do the homes being destroyed, the families thrown out on the street, the re-occupations, the targeted operations which also mow down the innocent make your lives more secure? Do they make your lives any better?

Yes, the people of Europe are wondering about this, and they’re waiting for answers.

  • Gaza - Separation fence

I raised these questions during my meetings with your country’s officials in relation to two essential policy points: the Gaza disengagement plan and the construction of a separation barrier.

France and the EU support the Gaza disengagement plan. We all know, and have said, that this is just one step. We all know, and have stated, the conditions that will make this withdrawal from an occupied territory successful: it must be negotiated with the Palestinians within the framework of the Roadmap.

This first stage is indispensable. The occupation lies at the heart of the conflict. It’s no coincidence that the Roadmap’s preamble addresses the aim of putting an end to "the occupation that began in 1967". Whether or not the armistice line of 1967 is legally a border isn’t the question: it’s on the basis of this line that peace will be made, that adjustments – freely negotiated with the Palestinians – can be made.

So Israel’s future and security depend on an initial withdrawal from Gaza, coordinated with the Palestinian Authority, so that this territory can in the future be properly administrated with the help of the international community. It’s Israel’s responsibility and it’s in her interest. If the conditions for Gaza’s economic development and its openness towards the outside are not guaranteed, this meagre territory will become a sort of prison, and the prison will become a powder keg.

This withdrawal is necessary, but it will not be enough. It must give rise to a movement, a succession of stages which will revive the implementation of the Roadmap. I can tell you that Europe is ready to facilitate this withdrawal, in every sphere, including security.

  • This brings me to the separation barrier.

Naturally, every State identifies what it must do to ensure its security, and France recognizes this sovereign choice. But as a partner, she is asking herself: is this in keeping with international law? The path of the wall, in any case, is not.

Fighting terrorism is a necessity. But it’s my conviction that there will only ever be one path to guaranteeing Israel’s security: peace.

A peace resting on clear foundations: the coexistence of Israel and a viable, democratic Palestinian State in Gaza and on the West Bank, with East Jerusalem as its capital and recognized borders. A viable State, I said, with the will to provide the security guarantees which Israel needs.

  • Roadmap

How ? The Roadmap drawn up by the Quartet at the EU’s initiative and accepted by both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority defines the principle stages. Your prime minister has dispelled some of the concerns by solemnly reaffirming the commitment of Israel and her government to the Roadmap, the "only path towards peace". We take note of this.

The Roadmap is based on simple, legitimate principles: a lasting peace cannot be concluded without the Palestinians, and even less so against the Palestinians. Peace won’t be made without compromises on both sides.

Certainly I’ve heard many questions here about the EU’s relations with the Palestinian Authority, about the contacts maintained with its president, Yasser Arafat.

History teaches us that we don’t choose our adversary, and it is with him that we make peace. I know what people here think of the president of the Palestinian Authority and what those who meet him say.

Nevertheless, we remain convinced that nothing will be done without or against Yasser Arafat, that by depriving him of his freedom of movement one also reduces the chances of seeing him make the gestures everyone is waiting for, as well as the chances of seeing the Palestinian political system open up to the new generations.

Now let’s also talk about elections. Let the Palestinians vote, beginning with the municipal elections scheduled for 2005. Is it in Israel’s interest for Palestinian society and the Palestinian Authority to continue to be torn apart or, on the contrary, for them to strengthen each other in order to better control extremist movements and act as a credible interlocutor?

It goes without saying that the Palestinian Authority must also implement all the obligations imposed on it by the Roadmap: fight terrorism and corruption, make radical reforms. It was to send President Arafat this message of firmness that I went to Ramallah three months ago.

We must accelerate the Roadmap’s implementation, which has fallen way behind schedule. For the objective is the coexistence of two States. It is the major component of the stabilization. France has been calling for it for more than 20 years. It has become the ambition of the entire international community.

Let me recall its central passage, which contains so much hope in just a few words: we must succeed in reaching a "settlement, negotiated between the parties, [which] will result in the emergence of an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbours. The settlement will resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and end the occupation that began in 1967, based on the foundations of the Madrid Conference, the principle of land for peace, UNSCRs 242, 338 and 1397, agreements previously reached by the parties."

Together let us reaffirm this objective. Shouldn’t we move rapidly toward a Palestinian State established within the provisional borders referred to by the Roadmap, even if we know that in the long term there will have to be a final-status agreement dealing with all the crucial problems – security, refugees, borders, Jerusalem?

This is an appeal I issue today. An appeal to the international community, an appeal to the Arab League, an appeal to the United States, since the settlement of this conflict demands a strong, determined commitment from the United States of America. Let’s work together in the coming months! Let’s combine our efforts to resume final status negotiations! Let’s not leave this crisis without a response and this region without a future!

  • EU - Israel - Barcelona Process

As the French Foreign Minister who is also a European Minister, I would like to talk to you about what the EU wants to do, what it would like to accomplish with Israel.

Europe is proposing to Israel a genuine neighbouring country policy.

The enlarged EU now has new neighbours. We want to maintain a special relationship with those to the East, those to the South and with you, sharing our values and our principles. Specific plans of action are bring prepared and the cooperation they will give rise to in every area – political, economic, technical and social – will confirm that Europe is a natural region for Israel’s development.

Europe also intends to mobilize on behalf of progress throughout this region, because we too believe in the virtues of democracy and reforms in the Middle East and throughout the world.

We have been working on this for nearly 10 years, through the only regional forum – yes, the only one – in which Arabs and Israelis regularly meet: the Euro-Mediterranean process launched in Barcelona in 1995. This process has made possible some important advances, such as the association agreement between Israel and the EU. It is a process which, by helping your neighbours, may bolster your own security in the future.

Europe, along with others, wants your security. It will never call into question Israel’s right to exist.

Peace today is within reach. Everyone in the region now understands: by proposing to recognize Israel in exchange for withdrawal from the Occupied Territories, the 2002 Arab League declaration in Beirut was a major, long-awaited step. This normalization will be the true guarantee of your security.

  • Terrorism

Beyond that, faced with the scourge of terrorism, everyone now understands that security requires everyone to mobilize against this threat.

France knows what terrorism is. She has suffered dozens of attacks in recent years. No one is safe from terrorism, which cannot be justified, cannot be explained, must be combated.

This is why the EU, standing together with the United States after 11 September, and itself struck in Madrid on 11 March this year, has made fighting terrorism one of its leading priorities.

Within the European framework, as in that of the UN, there have been a plethora of initiatives, with our full support, to significantly strengthen the international community’s effort against terrorism.

Having met victims of terrorism here on Sunday, I am aware of the horror of these attacks: at the Dolphinarium, Netanya, the Sbarro pizzeria, against the two children in Sderot… So many names that signify so many destroyed lives, broken destinies, traumatized families.

In the fight against terrorism, let us move forward together.

Dear Friends,

What I’ve come to say to you is that Israel, France and Europe share the same aspiration. We want to see peace prevail in this part of the world. Differences may appear, but dialogue will never hurt our friendship.

It took the Jews and the Europeans the same amount of time to achieve their utopias: half a century after Theodore Herzl published his book, "The Jewish State", in 1896, his dream became a reality with the creation of Israel. In 1957, the Treaty of Rome created the basis for a united Europe; 50 years later, you see a dynamic EU ready to welcome new members on its continent, determined to play its full role on the international scene.

Who would have predicted that these two ventures would be so successful so fast? Peace in the Middle East is now our challenge. It is our generation’s historic responsibility.

France and Europe will always stand by your side to make the courageous choice of peace, the choice of statesmen who have faith in the political process. This presumes sacrifices and compromises, but it paves the way for the most beautiful victory, the one we win over ourselves, the one which puts an end to hatred and war.

The Israeli people fear neither difficulties nor effort. They have demonstrated since the beginning that will power can change history. They ardently desire peace. So do your neighbours, so do your French and European friends.

Basically, if I had, as I come to the end of this first visit to Israel, to summarize my appeal, my conviction and what I want to do in just a few sentences, I would tell you this:

  • What have we Europeans proved ?

Simply that after three wars in less than a century, two enemy nations were capable of reconciliation. And that in the wake of this French-German reconciliation, which lies at its heart, the largest-ever entity of nations bound together by an enduring promise of peace and stability has been patiently built up.

It was an improbable dream. But it became possible. There is no inevitability in history.

What was possible to the north of the Mediterranean is possible, I’m utterly convinced, on the Mediterranean’s other shore.

Peace between Israel and the Palestinians, peace between Israel and her Arab neighbours will constitute the foundations of a new entity. Peace between Israel and the Palestinians is the essential key to stability and development in this part of the world./.
 


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