Assuming the risk of peace in the Middle East - Op-ed by
Dominique de Villepin published in the daily newspaper "Al Hayat"
Palestine-France, Politics, 9/22/2003
In an Op-ed published in the daily newspaper "Al Hayat", France’s
Minister of Foreign Affairs Dominique de Villepin said:
Ten years after Yasser Arafat and Itzhak Rabin signed the Washington
Declaration, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is experiencing what may be its
worst situation since 1967. Violence is a daily matter. The Second Intifada is
entering its fourth year, with nearly 3,500 deaths. The "road map" has
broken down. Palestinians and Israelis, who had drawn closer thanks to the Oslo
Process, are today divided by deep hostility.
Have we entered an irreversible spiral of violence? Can we leave these two
peoples with no other prospect than more suffering and death? Is the
international community, which has been able to resolve complex conflicts in
such places as South Africa and the Balkans, incapable of bringing justice,
security and hope to Israelis and Palestinians? We must mobilize to act and
encourage all those who wish to move forward toward peace.
The road map launched in Aqaba this past June was interrupted after four months.
This is all the more striking in that the two parties accepted it, and it is
supported by the United States, the European Union, Russia and the UN.
We can break the current deadlock only if the parties, together with the
international community, respect certain key principles.
The first principle: to risk peace, to choose resolve over chaos. Otherwise, no
plan will succeed. Uncertainty will lead to more violence and economic
The two peoples continue to want peace and are willing to accept the sacrifices
that implies. All the polls indicate this. It is up to their leaders to listen
to their will while taking into account the things that nurture the fears,
frustrations and incomprehension of the other side.
The second principle: to abandon ambiguity. Now more than ever, the mistrust
between Israelis and Palestinians demands clarity, especially on the objectives
of the negotiating process. The road map indicates the goal to be achieved: two
states living side by side in security, the end of the occupation begun in 1967,
and Israel's recognition by its neighbors, first and foremost of those being the
Palestinians. Palestinians and Israelis must acknowledge clearly to one another
that the other side has the right to exist within internationally recognized
The things that seemed to be taken for granted after years of effort are
seemingly being called into question. The mutual recognition achieved in Madrid
and Oslo is less evident. The commitment to the 1967 borders itself seems
fragile. But there can be progress only if each side admits the rights of the
other, starting with its territorial rights.
We are all bound by international law: The Palestinians must not take advantage
of the resolutions based on their demands while forgetting that it was a UN
resolution that created the State of Israel. The Israelis cannot argue that they
have inalienable rights as a result of UN decisions and not take into account
those decisions that affirm the rights of Palestinians.
The third principle: To put an end to the logic of preconditions, which is a
recipe for failure.
Demanding gestures from the other side without making them oneself freezes any
movement. Likewise, the decisions of one side lead to decisions on the part of
the other. The Israelis must be convinced of the Palestinians' determination to
stop violence through concrete actions: the arrest and conviction of terrorists;
the suppression of terrorist facilities; the collection of weapons; the drying
up of financial networks. The Palestinians can move forward only if Israel makes
decisions on the dismantling of settlements, prisoners, the curfew and free
movement within the Territories, concretely demonstrating its own desire to move
Focusing on President Arafat personally is justified neither by logic nor by
principles: No meaningful deal may be sealed between Israelis and Palestinians
without his agreement, and moreover, how can one call for a democratic Palestine
while objecting to the particular individual elected by the Palestinians?
Like the rest of the international community, France and Europe reject the
threats of expulsion against Yasser Arafat, a decision that President Chirac
said would be a "grave error" if implemented.
The security precondition, as we have seen these past few weeks, leads to
nothing. It prevented negotiations from taking place without giving the Israelis
greater security. It gave the terrorists control over the calendar. It is based
on the false idea that eliminating a given number of militants could "clear
the board" of the elements most hostile to peace, when to the contrary,
such unjustifiable actions only create new members.
France does not compromise with terrorism. It agreed to Hamas's inclusion on the
European list of terrorist organizations after that movement claimed credit for
the attack that killed 22 Israelis on August 19 in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, we
indicated at the same time that such a decision would naturally be reversible if
Hamas agreed to renounce violence and terrorism in favor of political action.
France cannot fail to react after such a grave act, even through it knows that
the responsibility for the failure of the truce is shared. However it asked the
European Union to stress in a strong declaration on September 11 both parties'
political obligations to apply the road map.
The fourth principle: to move fast. The road map is already running behind
schedule. We must make up for lost time. This phased plan is incumbent on
everyone. The crucial element ensuring that the populations stick to the process
is the swift appearance of concrete results.
That is what will make supporters of violence lose ground among the Palestinians
and provide Israelis both with more security and the conditions for economic
revival. A political crisis engenders an economic crisis; peace permits
The fifth principle: to act collectively. This was one of the most promising
aspects of the Quartet's work. Because all opinions count, because the sum total
of all the parties' experience enhances our chance of success.
There will be no lasting solution without unity on the part of the international
community. From this standpoint, the absence of three Quartet members in Aqaba
Europe must play a role in the resolution of this conflict. As Israel's leading
trading partner and financial backer for the Palestinians, it developed most of
the principles now admitted as the basis for settling the conflict. Europe seeks
no strategic or economic advantage in its effort on behalf of peace. But it
cannot serve merely as a "suggestion box" or a "checkbook"
used to ease the effects of occupation on the Palestinian Territories.
Europe must play a full-fledged role in the peace efforts. That is why the
Quartet must "meet regularly at the ministerial level to assess the way in
which the parties are implementing the plan," as the road map says.
On the basis of these five principles, we have a collective duty to act.
Betting on the break-up of power among the Palestinians is a short-term
calculation. To the contrary, we must help the prime minister, Ahmed Qureia;
help him to show the Palestinians that you get more results through negotiation
than through violence. France will devote itself to this.
The tragic events of recent weeks seem to challenge the great principles that
presided over the development of the road map and its calendar. We think, to the
contrary, that it is important to stick with this peace plan, accelerate its
implementation and make it irreversible. On what basis? The clear affirmation,
here as in Iraq, of the principle of sovereignty. It is indeed an essential
prerequisite to responsibility on the part of all sides. How can this be
translated into reality? By recognizing a Palestinian state living side by side
with the State of Israel; through support from the international community; but
also through democracy: Why not plan a referendum in which each of the two
peoples can vote for peace? These prospects should be at the heart of the
international conference provided for by the road map. It should constitute a
major step forward by marking the world's commitment to the resolution of this
conflict through a peace process whose indispensable global nature shouldn't be
forgotten. Indeed, the Syrian and Lebanese tracks are key to a lasting
At the same time, let us very quickly examine the modalities of an international
civilian and military presence on the ground.
The Israelis need security: It is an inalienable right. Neither repression nor
the wall being built will provide it for them. The Palestinians need to see the
occupying army that stifles their economy leave. They also need strong technical
assistance to rebuild public services. For the paralysis of the Palestinian
administration has led them toward radical groups who do provide such services.
The international community is not powerless to deal with these questions. It
has deployed forces elsewhere that restored calm. It has re-established
administrations destroyed by conflict elsewhere. We are aware of the risks of
such a mission. They are the risks of peace.
Clearly, such an international presence is possible only with the parties'
agreement. But would they have anything to lose? Certainly not the Israelis,
whose security would be guaranteed by the presence of soldiers from the world's
major powers. Certainly not the Palestinians, who would see the Israeli army
leave in favor of a temporary international force, and would receive
considerable assistance to build their State. Certainly not the international
community, which could finally envision an end to the conflict.
Once again, we must move fast. The Middle East is being torn apart. Crises
prevent it from developing, modernizing, integrating itself into the
international economy. It is our duty and our interest to help it emerge from
this quagmire and regain its confidence. The shock experienced by Iraq, the
aggravation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are so many additional blows to
a region split between rage and resignation. Feelings of injustice, of the
existence of a double standard, are linking these two crises and engendering
dangerous defiance toward the rest of the world.
The Arab states have accepted Israel's existence, as demonstrated by the
courageous initiative of Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, which was endorsed by
the Arab Summit of March 2002. A large majority of Israelis accept the
Palestinians' right to have their own state. These are major developments.
There will be inevitable concessions and painful doubts. But we must take the
lesson of the current deadlock to heart by mobilizing our energies and
accelerating movement in every domain. Together, with all the parties and
countries of the region, let's assume our responsibilities: Let's use the force
of peace to create, tomorrow, a Palestinian State, the only true guarantee of
Israel's security. This is the ambition we must embrace and we have the duty to
fulfil it with lucidity, responsibility and determination.
How can we manifest peace on
earth if we do not include everyone (all races, all nations, all religions, both
sexes) in our vision of Peace?
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