Dare to Take the First Step Toward Meaningful Negotiations

Every day we keep our arms crossed weakens potential peace partners, paving the way for extremists to hijack the Palestinian issue. This is precisely why France takes initiatives.

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A prayer session held in Gush Etzion on Sunday for the victims of the Duma arson attack.
A prayer session held in Gush Etzion on Sunday for the victims of the Duma arson attack.Credit: AFP
Laurent Fabius

As I am writing these lines, my thoughts go out to the relatives of the victims and to all the people injured on both sides during the latest surge of violence. France condemns any act of terrorism and violence. We call on all parties to show restraint in actions, as well as to refrain from any discourse inciting violence and hatred. Priority should be given to restoring quiet rather than raising mutual accusations.

THE ISRAEL CONFERENCE ON PEACE - NOV. 12, TEL AVIV

For months, France and others have been warning about the risk of renewed violence. I wish we had been wrong, but here we are.

The root causes of the current situation are manifold, but the lack of any peace perspective is certainly the most important one. Both Palestinian and Israeli youth deserve to be offered hope for a better future, where they can live in security, dignity and prosperity alongside their neighbors.

Those who convinced themselves – and tried to convince others – that the diplomatic status quo was manageable have failed to see the negative trends for Israel. The recent surge of violence is the tragic illustration of that trend, but I am also worried about the consolidation of a one-state reality threatening the very nature of Israel.

We remain convinced that the only viable way to peace has been and remains through negotiations leading to a viable two-state solution, based on the parameters we all know. Not because of ideology, but because it’s the only way to bring a lasting peace that this region and the Israeli people deserve.

We all know a permanent status agreement requires painful compromises. We all know many on both sides look at the facts on the ground and think the two-state solution has become unrealistic. We all know the resumption of negotiations requires a minimum of mutual trust, which at the moment does not exist. But the Palestinian people will not disappear, and nor will the Israeli people. Both are bound to find a way to live side by side. Therefore, the worst solution would be to just give up and let the situation deteriorate further until settlement building and violence take us beyond the point of no return.

Every day that we stay with our arms crossed weakens potential peace partners, paving the way for Daesh and other extremists to hijack the Palestinian issue. This is precisely the reason why France takes initiatives. Last September, during the UN General Assembly in New York, we initiated an unprecedented meeting of the Quartet with relevant stakeholders from Europe and the Arab world. We are determined to build upon this new dynamic. Together, we can promote confidence-building measures and show the possible dividends of peace, building on American special influence, the Arab Peace Initiative and the European Special Privileged Partnership offer. The objective is obviously not to replace the parties but to help them restart dialogue and hopefully reach an agreement backed by international guarantees.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius talks to journalists outside Palais Coburg, the venue for nuclear talks, in Vienna, Austria, July 5, 2015.Credit: Reuters

I know the difficulties the “peace camp” is going through, especially in times of violence drawing the two societies further away. But nobody can want peace more than the Israelis and Palestinians themselves. France’s message to both parties has not changed: Dare to make the first step toward a resumption of meaningful negotiations leading to a permanent status agreement. The international community is ready to stand by your side. It is necessary, it is still possible, it is not too late.

The writer is the foreign minister of France.

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