For the sake of peace, Socialist Francois Hollande needs to rediscover the independent foreign policy of earlier French presidents in its approach to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, argue four left lawmakers*.
From General De Gaulle to Jacques Chirac, passing by François Mitterrand, our country had always shown the voice of reason [on Israel and Palestine], which is that a fair balance must be struck between the rights of two peoples.
But what we can see today is that the language of French diplomacy is moving further and further away from this balanced approach. Unilateral approval given to actions by Israel clearly undermines our continued support to international law. It is not slight inflections of our diplomatic language, belatedly introduced, that changes the basis of this new policy.
Given the gravity of the current escalation, France cannot exonerate itself from its historic responsibilities by simply hosting an international conference doomed to repeat past failures. At each stage of a conflict that, from intifada to colonization, from rocket attacks to disproportionate military responses, ceaselessly aggravates the situation, we must demand vigorous action under the auspices of the Security Council, with necessary sanctions.
Our country cannot limit itself to police action to fight against the “import of the conflict” into our territory.
On the contrary this nervousness in defense of a just solution, backed by the necessary means, sows the seeds of resentment, which in turn can only lead to unacceptable and dangerous behavior. This vicious cycle would not exist if France, despite the profound imbalance between the belligerents, stopped apportioning equal blame to them.
The question is indeed well beyond our selective indignation. Certainly, the proliferation of human and especially civilian casualties must be denounced as has been the case for other distressed situations in the world. And we are not alone in deploring the policy of double-standards.
Act on causes of crisis
But to fail to act on the causes is to simply to face a repeat of the crisis. In this respect the first duty is to tell it like it is: we would not be here if Israel had not continued to violate international law, in particular by its policy of illegal settlements while behind the scenes working to create a situation in which, since Camp David, it has discredited all its negotiating partners.
The fact that Israel and Hamas are facing each other is anything but an historical accident and its easy for Israel to say that Hamas is not a credible and responsible negotiating partner. For the truth is that it did everything to be where are today, making it virtually impossible to create two states.
A second task is to restore the balance. Sanctions that France is so quick to apply in other cases must be implemented, without delay, on the State of Israel. Without this, history will judge France harshly for a policy of variable geometry in terms of human rights and respect for international law.
Centrality of international law
It is international law that must remain the compass of our diplomacy. Resolution 242 of the Security Council of the United Nations adopted 22 November 1967 contained all that was necessary for the establishment of a just and balanced peace.
Since France has always stood as a singular voice in the Western camp, the questioning of this vocation is indeed serious. On the one hand this conflict is part of the breakup of all areas of stability in the Middle East, a risk emphasized by France at the time of the Iraq war. In this flashover features the policy of aggression of one state, supported by the Western powers well beyond any degree of reasonableness.
On the other hand, the position of France vis-à-vis the two peoples gives it a special historical responsibility. First because our country has played a major role in the creation of the State of Israel and until just a few years ago paid particular attention to the conflict. Second, because France is the European country with more people from Jewish and Muslim cultures than any other; by the strength of their cultural imagination, there are many who are very concerned by the conflict.
But it is precisely by taking an enlightened position informed by the law and reason that the French Republic should consider Jewish and Muslim citizens as French citizens, as custodians of all our indivisible citizenship, not as potential “importers” of the conflict.
Cut trade ties, impose sanctions
We believe that France must find the way to achieve balance, leave aside all unilateralism and return to its traditional diplomacy. It must clearly condemn the violation of international law by Israel and take action so that Europe cuts its association agreements with the Israeli state and applies sanctions.
The hope this will give to the Palestinian people will encourage them to entrust their fate to responsible party leaders and officials. Or are we waiting for the crushing of Hamas, this blind guide of desperate people to move to the final stage, that of Al Qaeda in Palestine? And whose fault will it be if we take yet more steps down the staircase to hell?
It is no time for rhetoric. Everything that is still possible to make Palestine a state worthy of the name should be done. It is in the interest of the two peoples who both deserve it because they must not be lumped together with their rulers. This is also in the interests of the entire Middle East, as well as Europe. Faced with such challenges, will France find a voice for which she was once respected?
*Pouria Amirshahi (MP), Socialist party; Marie-Françoise Bechtel (MP) and Barbara Romagnan (MP), Mouvement Républicain et Citoyen, allied with the socialists; Michel Billout (Senator) Communist, Republican and Citizen parliamentary group (CRC)
Translation by Revolting Europe