Visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories
ARAB SPRING/ISRAELIS AND PALESTINIANS
Q. – If democracy were to prevail in the Arab countries, Israel would no longer be the only democratic state in the region. Is Mr Netanyahu aware of, or beginning to understand, this fact and that it rules out the status quo?
THE MINISTER – What we’re constantly saying to both sides is that the status quo is untenable because, as you quite rightly say, everything’s changing around the Middle East, around Israel and Palestine.
The changes in Syria have undoubtedly driven Hamas to change its position and move closer to Fatah. Everything’s changing in Egypt, too, and heaven knows Egypt has played a very important role in stabilizing the region. So we must take these changes into account; that’s why we must resume the dialogue and not withdraw into the status quo, which runs the risk of leading to confrontation.
HAMAS/FATAH/PALESTINIAN UNITY GOVERNMENT
Q. – Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah and Hamas have been reconciled; they should be forming a unity government led by Mahmoud Abbas, without Hamas but supported by Hamas. In your view, is Hamas becoming an interlocutor one can associate with?
THE MINISTER – Not yet; as always, we have to remember the conditions of any dialogue with Hamas. It must renounce terrorism and violence, respect the conditions already agreed and – of course – recognize the existence, the permanence, the security of the state of Israel. We’re not there yet, but what’s clear is that if there are negotiations they’ll be conducted by Mahmoud Abbas, who is ready or is apparently ready to commit himself to a platform of discussion that perfectly includes everything I’ve just said. He’d appoint a unity government in which representatives of the parties wouldn’t hold seats. That government would of course be supported by the parties, including Hamas, and the whole question is whether, by supporting that government, Hamas will evolve towards respecting the parameters I’ve just repeated.
Q. – What deadline are you – the G8, President Obama and President Sarkozy – giving the Palestinians and Israelis to resume [talks] and possibly commit themselves?
THE MINISTER –You’re right to mention the G8, because when President Medvedev, President Obama and President Sarkozy, but also Mrs Merkel and the United Nations Secretary-General met, they took that very line. The deadline is tight: it’s the date of the United Nations General Assembly, during which a resolution on recognition of the Palestinian state will most probably be presented. Something must absolutely happen first, and we’re ready – if there’s a positive reaction to the proposals we’re making, of course – to organize a peace conference in Paris at the end of June or the beginning of July which would make it possible to start again on new foundations.
Q. – And could that be done so quickly, within such a tight deadline?
THE MINISTER – If it isn’t done within this deadline, we’ll find ourselves confronted with the situation I was describing. In my view, if there’s a resolution to recognize the state of Palestine in September it won’t move things forward, because I fear Israel will be more isolated and I’m not sure that, the day after the vote on that resolution, things will really change for the Palestinians themselves in their daily lives.
GILAD SHALIT/SALAH HAMOURI
Q. – You met the parents of Gilad Shalit, who are fighting for the release of their son, who’s been held for five years. Are things making any progress? Do you have any news? In your opinion, is he a prisoner or a hostage?
THE MINISTER – As you know, President Sarkozy, the government and I are doing everything possible to put an end to this detention, which is unacceptable in terms of international humanitarian law and human rights. I did meet his parents; mediation is currently under way. I don’t want to raise too many hopes, but, among other things, I pointed out to the Palestinian leaders that if they want to reassure the international community and show that the reconciliation with Hamas brings progress, well, here’s an opportunity to make a sign that would, I think, be appreciated by everyone.
Q. – France wants Gilad Shalit, and he’s in Gaza; can you confirm that?
THE MINISTER – We want him because, I repeat, his detention is intolerable and unacceptable.
I’m also going to meet the mother of a Franco-Palestinian prisoner, Salah Hamouri, who should be released in November and for whom we’re seeking clemency from the Israeli authorities.
Q. – In Syria, the opposition is going to demonstrate again today, amid the risk of live gunfire. Most countries are outraged by the atrocities committed against the Syrian people. Are tough sanctions necessary, and must Bashar al-Assad go, like all the dictators in the region?
THE MINISTER – I think that when you’ve used heavy weapons, guns, tanks to crack down on your own people, you lose all legitimacy.
That’s what we’re saying about Syria, just as we’re saying it about Libya. Let me remind you that we Europeans have imposed sanctions, which we’re also ready to step up if necessary. So it can’t be said there are double standards. What’s facing obstacles is the vote on a resolution at the Security Council. We’re continuing to work on it, and it’s not inconceivable that we’ll achieve our goal. (…)