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
Source: French Embassy, London.
Thank you, dear Itamar Rabinovitch and Eli Barnavi, for your
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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!
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
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
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.
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
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
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:
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
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./.