Situation in Gaza
Situation in the Middle East : statements to the press by M. Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republic, alongside Mr Ehud Olmert, prime Minister of Israel, Mr Mirek Topolanek, prime Minister of the czech Republic, Mrs Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, Mr Gordon Brown, prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and northern Ireland, Mr Silvio Berlusconi, prime Minister of Italy, and Mr Jose Luis Zapatero, prime Minister of Spain
- excerpts -
(Jerusalem, 18 January 2009)
Ladies and gentlemen, Prime Minister, we all have the feeling of living through a historic moment here in Jerusalem when we see all the Israeli political leaders side by side with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert: Ms Tzipi Livni, Mr Barak, Mr Netanyahu.
This shows what’s at stake, the State of Israel’s future, which goes well beyond whoever wins the election. Let me be allowed to speak as a friend of Israel. The whole of Europe will never compromise on the State of Israel’s right to security. And you know you can count on us. But friends have to tell each other things. We didn’t approve of the Zahal [Israeli defence forces] intervention in Gaza. Why? We know and have recognized that Hamas was initially at fault, with the rockets which led to the breaking of the truce. But we think Zahal’s place isn’t in Gaza.
(…) The Israeli government’s unanimous decision to halt its offensive is a decision we support. It’s a decision worthy of a democratic State. And we say: "It’s only a first step. It’s necessary to go further." (…)
This is extremely important. Since, at last, we are emerging from the vicious circle of provocation and reaction, and moving towards a virtuous circle of hope. And if, despite everything, we decided to have confidence in each other because we had no other choice? (…)
But we’re also saying to you: "help us to be your friends. You are a democratic nation, it’s for you to show us the way. And the whole world will follow you."
With your permission, one final observation. We have to take advantage of this gleam of hope and now put everything on the table. It doesn’t require more effort to make a major definitive peace plan than a limited provisional peace plan. You need the same interlocutors, at the same time, same moment. Let’s take risks for peace. We’ll find the room for manoeuvre by putting everything on the table. And once Zahal has pulled out of Gaza, a summit will have to be proposed to the President of the Palestinian Authority in order to talk to him. How will the Palestinian State be able to live in peace with the State of Israel? That’s for you to discuss and something you will have to start doing. I can tell you after that it will immediately be necessary to convene the major international conference which will at last make it possible to establish peace, this year, in this region of the world. Of course, we’ll need the United States of America. No one is thinking of excluding it. But nor does anyone want to wait. And we hope the Americans will strongly commit to providing the necessary guarantees.
As you can see, we have come as friends. We’re reaching out to everyone because we are convinced that Europe can carry a message of peace, if Europe is strong, if Europe is determined and if Europe has the courage to talk to everyone.
One word, really, finally. We want Corporal Shalit released. Not, Prime Minister, just because he is half French, but because it’s necessary, because there’s been too much suffering. And we’d like Israel too to be ready to release prisoners, so that, here as well, we put an end to the pain of hundreds of families who now must aspire to peace.
I hope you have understood that we aren’t telling Israel what to do. We’re simply making a gesture of friendship, speaking frankly, sincerely and finally urging boldness. (…)./.
(Sources: news briefs, Israeli and Arab media, updates from local offices)
The 22 days of conflict, which began on December 27, 2008, came to end in the afternoon of January 18, 2009: the ceasefire, ordered unilaterally by Israel, came several hours after a similar response from Hamas: a one-week long ceasefire. The extension of this ceasefire depends on the complete withdrawal of Israeli troops, redeployed to key points in Gaza.
Several factors explain this development, in which France has actively played a key role (see separate file on France’s efforts):
the growing international pressure, especially for this crisis to be a humanitarian issue;
the discouraging extent of the damages caused to Hamas’ institutions and infrastructures as well as the distinct decrease of rocket fire, a result of the military operations;
the conclusion of Israel’s separate security agreements with its western partners and Egypt, with a view to increase control over weapon trafficking into Gaza; and,
the conviction, on behalf of most Israeli security cabinet members, that the main objectives of the war have been met.
According to the first estimations, the death toll and total damages caused by these conflicts have greatly affected the Palestinian population; the situation has not been as severe for the Israelis. A feeling of uncertainty still remains regarding Hamas’ lingering military capacity.
The following statements are a result of the political impact of the war:
the confrontations have not change the electoral equation in Israel (10/02 legislative);
this country’s image at the international level is very tainted and ruined;
the crisis has destabilized the leaders of the Palestinian National Authority, accused of working for the Israelis by maintaining order on the West Bank;
the Hamas’ policy foundation no longer reaches outside of Gaza due to the extent of the damage;
the increasing popular support for Hamas on the West Bank, especially in the Arab circles, in relation to the resistance and international diffusion of the conflict’s image, created by Hamas;
the movement’s international stature is reinforced by the Doha Summit and the support of most Arab states and Iran;
these states’ toughened views and self-restraint contradicts their actual military operations. This is an indication that the crisis and Palestinian divisions are largely orchestrated based on a logical desire for power;
there is a significant difference between Saudi Arabia, who is very discrete, and Egypt, who shows its centrality in the crisis and resistance of its regime towards popular and Syro-Iranian causes;
the European states and Turkey, contrary to the former American administration, request that the crisis come to an end; and,
the growing feeling, within the international community, is that there is a need for intervention in Israeli-Palestinian bilateral negotiations in 2009.
The conflict brings up new questions regarding discussion opportunities, under conditions, with Hamas regarding the Arab League’s capacity to enforce its own peace initiative and the fate of Gilad Shalit.
From the very beginning of the conflict, France has been involved. As early as December 27, 2008, and under the title of President of the European Union, France criticized the use of rocket fire against southern Israel as well as Hamas’ refusal to extend the truce made in June 2008. Similarly, France, who again declared that military action is not a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, criticized Israel’s disproportionate use of force.
Per the request of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, on December 30, 2008, the 27 ministers of the European Union met in Paris for an urgent meeting. These ministers called for a permanent and immediate ceasefire and requested immediate humanitarian action and the reopening of Gaza.
France was one of the first countries to disapprove of Israel’s military land operations deployed in Gaza on January 3, 2009. These operations have made it even more difficult to put an end to the conflict and have led to numerous civilian casualties and a severe humanitarian crisis.
During his trip to the Near East (January 5–6), the President of the Republic met with all parties. On January 6, 2009, the French and Egyptian presidents introduced a peace initiative, based on three main elements (refer to infra), to Charm El-Cheikh.
The Palestinian President responded well to the initiative. The Israeli authorities also responded well to the Franco-Egyptian peace plan. The same day, the office of the Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, declared a three-hour ceasefire to take place every day to let in humanitarian aide.
Similarly, on January 8, 2009, the Security Council, presided by the Minister, adopted Resolution 1860 by 14 votes out of 15, with the abstention of the United States. A “long-term ceasefire was immediately declared and completely respected, which lead to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza”. However, Israel continues to pursue its military operations even though it has not rejected the resolution. Hamas declared that the Resolution 1860 does not meet its expectations.
Discussions are ongoing in Cairo. A delegation from Hamas traveled to Cairo on January 8, 2009. A second trip by Amos Gilad, director of the Israeli Defence Ministry, is scheduled on January 15, 2008. France is still in contact at the highest levels with all actors involved. Qatar announced that an Arab Summit will be organized in Gaza on Friday.
On January 15, 2009, the Minister will preside over a dinner following the Paris conference with the three co-presidents, Mr. Blair, Mr. Stoere and Ms. Ferrero-Waldner, to discuss the Gaza situation.
- Find the different French statements on the situation in Gaza :