PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN receives French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.
(photo credit: MARK NEYMAN / GPO)
France is committed to peace in the Middle East and to Israel’s security, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday ahead of his projected meeting on Monday with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Of the European countries negotiating with Iran on a nuclear deal, France has taken the toughest stance.
When he began negotiating with Iran three years ago, Fabius told Rivlin, he had prepared a draft that contained an unequivocal clause to the effect that under no circumstances will Iran seek or possess nuclear weapons.
While deriving some comfort from Fabius’s assurances, Rivlin pointed out that Iran poses more than a nuclear threat. It has supplied Hezbollah with 100,000 rockets and mortars, supports Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the Shi’ites and the Sunnis in Yemen and the Syrian terrorists on the Golan.
“We have to take the threat of Iran very seriously,” said Rivlin. “We are in imminent danger of an imperialistic power which declared in the United Nations that it wants to destroy Israel.”
With regard to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, Fabius underscored that France as a friend of both Israel and the Palestinians wants to help both parties to renew the peace process. While he understood Israel’s objections to third-party involvement and agreed that the only way to resolve the conflict is through direct talks, he believed that a friend was needed to urge both parties in that direction.
“That’s why I’m here,” he said.
Rivlin opined that PA President Mahmoud Abbas is not really interested in a two-state solution, basing his conviction on the fact that Abbas has rejected long range proposals by Israel, the Quartet and the United States.
When Israel made the unilateral move of evacuating all Israelis from Gaza and leaving the Gazans to govern themselves the upshot was an ongoing rocket assault against Israel, Rivlin said.
Even if Israel reaches an agreement with Abbas, he continued, Israel suspects that Hamas will keep on with its belligerency.
As far as the peace process is concerned, Rivlin said that there has been a loss of confidence on both sides and confidence building measures are required before direct talks can begin. But even before that he emphasized, “Abbas and Hamas have to decide who rules Gaza.”
He added that it was in Israel’s interests for Gaza to be reconstructed but not while rockets were still being aimed from Gaza.
Fabius offered France’s help in any way possible, beginning with confidence building measures.