I was in Israel several days ago, at the very time when the government of Israel accepted the diplomatic quartet’s “road map.” I came with a double objective: to instill a new dynamic in French-Israeli relations and to express my conviction that it is possible and necessary to seize the new opportunity that has been given for peace.
France has a relationship with your country that is emotional and sometimes impassioned, based on deep ties that have been characterized by strong moments, sometimes tragic, often happy, in the image of the encounter between the Jewish Enlightenment and the France of the Emancipation from which Jewish modernity was forged.
Between France and Israel, and between the French and the Jewish people, there is a heartfelt relationship that led the father of the great philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, in the midst of the Dreyfus affair, to say that “it is worth moving to a state that tears itself apart over the fate of a little Jewish captain.”
France and the Jewish people have historical trajectories that intersect and complement each other: On the one hand, the history of the first great monotheism, founded on the rules of a universal morality, and on the other, the history of France that from the outset has recognized the spiritual vocation of the Jewish people. Today, these two universal conceptions are inseparable.
In the hearts of the French, your people evokes vivid resonances: of creative capacity, of unparalleled energy and also of the tragedy of the Holocaust. The Holocaust is a part of our common history, as recently noted by President Jacques Chirac, for whom France “will always be inconsolable” for this “irredeemable mistake.”
Beyond the burning obligation to do justice, which in recent years has led to the establishment of the Foundation for the Memory of the Holocaust and the Commission for the Indemnification of Victims of Spoliation of Jewish Assets in France and to the taking of steps for the benefit of Holocaust orphans, the memory of those dark years is there to remind France and Europe of their obligation to remember the tragedy that can never become a banality.
Today France and Europe are not forgetting that after 50 years of efforts to establish a space of peace and sharing, they owe a great deal of the energy to accomplish this to the total rejection of the horror and the barbarism that the Jewish people had to suffer.
The French people mobilized for the creation of the State of Israel. France defended your place in the community of nations. It was one of the first countries to recognize the State of Israel and gave it resolute support during the most difficult years of its rebirth.
We share two huge advantages that we should utilize well: First of all, the French-speaking community in Israel, which creates such strong ties between our two societies and which is working toward the acceptance of Israel into the worldwide organization of French speakers, L’Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, in the near future. Secondly, there is the Jewish community in France, without which my country would not be what it is. France is proud of this lineage, from Marcel Proust to Rene Cassin to Leon Blum. This is why antisemitism is insufferable and we will combat it; for the same reason, the unacceptable provocations by certain elements are in vain.
My Israeli friends: The encounter between our two nations is dictated by a common fate. It is for this reason that we must give renewed impetus to the relations between us. Let us renew the trust and develop exchanges, dialogue and cooperation in all the areas in which the Israelis and the French seek to enrich their heritage.
Ambitious projects have been prepared during recent weeks in all areas, from diplomatic dialogue to scientific cooperation, from commercial exchanges to cultural and academic relations. In the near future, France will build a new French Institute in Tel Aviv, which will honor the cultural vitality of our countries. Let us also renew our political dialogue in the face of the new threats. We must work together.
France has never compromised on Israel’s security. This will come about through the construction of a peace based on justice. This is the essence of France’s involvement in the Middle East.
We understand that Israel’s major preoccupation is the security of its citizens, and we will always be on Israel’s side against fanaticism, violence and terrorism. This is precisely the reason we must not allow the logic of the conflict to overcome the desire for reconciliation at a time when a new opportunity is emerging.
The status quo is no longer possible. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become a symbol of worldwide fracture. The insecurity demands urgent and firm action. How is it possible to break the cycle of violence and give peace a chance?
It is in the power of our democracies that the answers may be found. Is there any nation better able than yours, which has known so much injustice, oppression and exclusion, to understand the feelings of the Palestinian people?
Today, there is a possible route to peace: the plan proposed by the diplomatic quartet, which everyone has accepted. It is urgent that we all devote ourselves to implementing it, as the alternative to the road map is not the status quo, but rather the abyss.
The choice of peace is always difficult. We all know this, you better than anyone else. But we also know that peoples who fight for their rights do not give up. Therefore let us be bold in the quest for global peace.
Israel, a land that was the dream of ages, once lost and now found, still knows troubles and anxieties. The real victory of your people will be that of peace in a region that longs to achieve serenity — a victory of the humanism that you have always carried at the deepest level of your identity.
Dominique de Villepin is foreign minister of France. This article originally appeared in Ha’aretz, whose Web site is www.haaretzdaily.com.