State visit to Israel
Mr President, it’s an honour to be received by you, here in Israel. I myself welcomed you to Paris for a visit a few months ago. Seeing you again today, you look even younger. There are a lot of miracles in Israel, and you’re one of them! And I invite you to return to France for a state visit to mark the 65th anniversary of Israel’s declaration of independence.
Because, Shimon Peres, you are a friend of France, a lifelong friend. A friend who has experienced hardships and who has always seen France at Israel’s side. As you have just said, you were with Ben-Gurion in Paris for a now-historic meeting with General de Gaulle.
Then you became friends – and it’s a privilege – with François Mitterrand. You shared a close political bond with him, but also an intellectual and cultural one. And in our meeting, you confided to me some lessons you learned from him. At each stage in your country’s life, you have always wanted to keep the tie with France.
France, which is at your side, is aware – because of history, but also common values – of what our two countries share. France can also be hit by the scourge, the shame of anti-Semitism. There too, we have lived painfully through a number of tragedies. I can confirm, here in Israel, the commitment, the determination and the desire of the French authorities to fight the racism and anti-Semitism we’ve sadly seen resurfacing in recent times.
So we talked about our history, we talked about our relations, our links, our culture and our economy. But we also discussed together the most pressing, most burning issues of concern today.
First, on nuclear proliferation and Iran in particular, I reaffirmed to the President what I said when I first set foot on Israeli soil: we will never allow Iran to have nuclear weapons, because it threatens Israel’s security and it threatens the whole world too. So we’re seeking an agreement, we want an agreement, because we think that negotiation, diplomacy is preferable to any other path, and any other outcome. But this agreement, which is obtainable, will be possible only if Iran gives up nuclear weapons once and for all.
We also spoke about Syria. I thank Shimon Peres for generously supporting France’s position on this issue on several occasions.
Indeed, as regards Syria we wanted – through pressure, including military pressure – to get the chemical weapons destroyed. This has begun but hasn’t been completed. We’ll have to be vigilant, but our goal is also to put an end to the civil war in Syria which is affecting the whole region, with an ever-increasing number of refugees who are destabilizing the neighbouring countries: Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. So we’re seeking a political solution sidelining both those who are oppressing the Syrian people and also the extremists and the terrorists, because they exist in Syria too.
FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM/AFRICA
The third point is the fight against terrorism. France is also playing her part in it. Thank you, Shimon Peres, for drawing attention to what my country’s position was on [the crisis in] Mali and what justified its intervention there, under the aegis of the international community.
Here again, we weren’t seeking any self-interest, we weren’t pursuing any gain, other than to halt the terrorist offensive and reduce the threat. It hasn’t disappeared. Mali’s integrity was restored, a presidential election was organized and soon there will be a general one. But we know that there are still hotbeds of terrorism. So much so that we’ve paid the price for it… But we’re holding firm, we’ll continue doing so and support the African countries in their fight against terrorism.
Paris is going to host a major conference in December. France, with the African countries – all the African countries, in the presence of the United Nations Secretary-General and also with Europe as a partner – will make sure that the Africans can ensure their own security themselves and fight terrorism.
Earlier, Laurent Fabius, your friend, left us for a few hours to go to Nigeria, where one of our compatriots was freed, freed himself. We’re delighted about this. But we aren’t forgetting the other hostages, some of whom have spent months, others days, in captivity. I will particularly be following Laurent Fabius’s visit and I’m also in contact with Mr Biya, the President of Cameroon, so that we can find the priest who was kidnapped in northern Cameroon.
I come to the last, perhaps the most important subject: peace. Shimon Peres, you are a tireless campaigner for peace. That doesn’t mean you’re in favour of peace regardless of the conditions. It means laying down the conditions for there to be peace.
You contributed 20 years ago to the Oslo Agreement. You know how difficult a task this is. But it’s a matter of urgency, because it’s no longer simply about one more agreement. It’s about finding a definitive agreement for a fair, lasting peace, with the solution you talked about – that of two states, so that all claims are exhausted and the region finds stability, security and dynamism.
Gestures will have to be made, on both sides. Gestures from the Israeli side have started to be made – the release of prisoners –, others are expected, particularly on settlements. And there are also gestures from the Palestinian side. I’ll be talking to Mahmoud Abbas about this. But I know that, if the determination of one and all is combined, if all decisions point in the same direction, if courage is shared, then you – you, Shimon Peres, the Israeli government, the Palestinians, but above all everyone who is a tireless campaigner for this cause – will win the finest of victories. Because there is no finer victory than that of peace.