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Middle East/peace process/recognition of the State of Palestine

Published on December 8, 2014
Hearing of M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, before the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Armed Forces Committee (excerpts)
Paris, December 3, 2014

It’s a good thing if the Senate can make a constructive contribution to the current debate. Several draft resolutions have been presented, and if I can express a wish it’s for the final wording to be as consensual as possible. It wasn’t possible to arrive at a common text at the National Assembly: I hope it will be possible here. Some people have wondered about the assemblies’ right to speak on such a subject: of course they have the right to speak, since it’s not an injunction. The government listens to Parliament; the fact remains that, according to the Constitution of the Fifth Republic, the government and the President are in charge of foreign policy.

Your initiative contributes to peace. France’s tradition is to be the friend of the Palestinian people and of the Israeli people. Our only enemies are the extremists, the fanatics who exist on both sides and obstruct the march towards peace. We must also seek to ensure we don’t import this conflict, which, because of its specific nature, has special resonance in our country and many countries – hence the reactions from various parliaments.

In many conflicts, the main difficulty is defining the parameters of the solution: that’s the case in Syria and Ukraine. In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the parameters are known: the Arab peace plan, the Americans’ proposals and the Europeans’ proposals include similar elements. By contrast, the two main players can’t manage to agree on those parameters, despite lengthy discussions. These failures are most often to do with reasons of domestic politics, as much on the Israeli as the Palestinian side.

We’ve reached the conclusion that both parties will have great difficulty reaching an agreement if they remain alone, even with the United States’ help. So an intervention of another order is essential: an international authority, the United Nations Security Council for example, must intervene to prevent further damage.

The principle of recognizing the two states is part of France’s political tradition. Thus, United Nations Resolution 181 in April 1947 recognized a Jewish state and an Arab state. France fought hard to secure recognition of Israel and then worked for Palestine to be recognized.
During M. Sarkozy’s presidency Palestine joined UNESCO, and two years ago Palestine became a UN non-member observer state. All French presidents have supported the two-state solution.

The issue now arises of how to achieve this. Until now we’ve wanted recognition to be linked to negotiations, but if they don’t get anywhere they become the factor preventing the deadlock from being acknowledged. So we suggest a change in the method with, firstly, a definition of the parameters at international level, sanctioned by a United Nations Security Council resolution. Yesterday I met the representatives of some 60 countries [to talk] about other subjects, but we mentioned this issue. We’re also talking to the Palestinians and Israelis, of course.
The latter are reluctant. If we can put forward a resolution, avoiding a veto, to define the parameters of the negotiations, international law will be affirmed. Some people say we must wait for the Israeli elections in March before acting. I don’t think so, because the situation on the ground may degenerate at any moment.

If we want international support, these parameters will have to be accepted by both sides, but also by the five permanent members of the Security Council, by those Arab states directly concerned and by those with a direct influence on the solution. If we want one of the sides not to use the negotiations as a right of veto and the other side to agree to commit, a deadline must be set. The Palestinians would like 18 months; provision for 24 months would be preferable. In the event of deadlock – which we don’t want –, we’ll shoulder our responsibilities by recognizing the State of Palestine.

We must find a path between two extremes: if we said this very day that we recognize Palestine, it wouldn’t be translated into anything concrete on the ground. Unless a deadline is set for the process, the negotiations risk getting bogged down. Only last weekend, the path we sketched out was welcomed.

In the coming days, we should get the first phase over with. We’ll then be able to move onto the second phase. (…)./.

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