Israel/Palestine: Understand France’s position in nine points

France considers that the conflict can only be resolved through the solution of two States living side-by-side in peace and security, in accordance with international law.

Who does France support?

1. France is the friend of both the Israelis and the Palestinians.

France has strong historical, cultural and human ties with Israel. France was one of the first countries to recognize the new State and establish diplomatic relations, as early as 1949. For more than 70 years, France has been advocating Israel’s right to exist and live in security, and its full membership of the community of sovereign nations. The bilateral relationship between France and Israel is also supported by the presence in Israel of a large French and French-speaking community, while France is home to Europe’s largest Jewish community.

France is also the friend of the Palestinian people and supports the creation of a Palestinian State, living within secure and recognized borders alongside Israel, with Jerusalem as the capital of both States. On 22 November 1974, France voted in favour of recognizing the PLO at the United Nations as an observer, reaffirming the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. In 1982, François Mitterrand was the first French President to express the goal of creating a Palestinian State before the Knesset. In 2010, France raised the status of the General Delegation of Palestine in France, which became the Mission of Palestine and is led by an ambassador. In November 2012, it voted in favour of the status of non-member observer State at the United Nations, and in September 2015 for the placing of the Palestinian flag at the UN.

2. France stands on the side of international law.

France calls for compliance with international law, in particular the relevant United Nations resolutions. Therefore France promotes a two-state solution (United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181), a fair solution regarding refugees (United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194), the end of Israeli occupation (United Nations Security Council Resolution 242) and the preservation of the status of Jerusalem (Nations Security Council Resolutions 476 and 478). On that basis, France calls on both parties to reaffirm their commitment to a negotiated settlement and the two-state solution, and to refrain from any unilateral action undermining the conditions to achieve that.

France also calls on Israel to fully comply with international humanitarian law, which applies in the Palestinian Territories.

The building of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is an illegal seizure of land which should be the subject of peace negotiations between the parties on the basis of the 1967 Lines. The building of settlements is contrary to international law (particularly Geneva Convention IV and several UN Security Council resolutions), threatens the viability of the two-state solution, and constitutes an obstacle to fair and lasting peace. Security Council Resolution 2334, which was adopted almost unanimously by Member States on 23 December 2016, called on Israel to immediately and completely cease all settlement activities and urged States to distinguish between the territory of the State of Israel and the Palestinian Territories occupied since 1967.

France therefore regularly condemns the settlement policy which, in 2019, led to the approval of more than 8,300 homes – a record since 2013 (6,742 in 2017 and 5,618 in 2018).

Concrete measures have been taken at European level with regard to the acceleration of settlement construction, including for differentiated treatment of the territory of the State of Israel and settlements. For example, the labelling of products from Israeli settlements set out in the European Union’s interpretative notice in November 2015 and ruled compliant with European law by the Court of Justice of the European Union on 12 December 2019, is part of this approach.

3. France is committed to stability in the region.

France condemns in the strongest terms all acts of violence and terrorism, and calls upon all parties to combat all forms of incitement to hatred. On several occasions, alongside its European partners, it called upon all parties to abstain from any action that could aggravate the situation through either incitation or provocation, and asked them to condemn any attack carried out and to rigorously respect the principles of necessity and proportionality in the use of force.
France is unwaveringly committed to Israel’s security, which remains a key principle of its regional policy.

What solution does France advocate?

4. The two-state solution is the only solution capable of addressing the legitimate aspirations of both the Israelis and the Palestinians to security, independence, recognition and dignity.

The two-State solution is the only solution capable of addressing the legitimate aspirations of both the Israelis and the Palestinians to security, independence, recognition and dignity. With this in mind, France and its European partners have drawn up the parameters that need to guide a resolution of the conflict:

With this in mind, France and its European partners have drawn up the parameters that should oversee resolution of the conflict:

  • Borders based on the 4 June 1967 Lines, with agreed equivalent land swaps;
  • Security arrangements preserving the sovereignty of the future Palestinian State and guaranteeing the security of Israel;
  • A fair, equitable and negotiated solution to the refugee problem;
  • An arrangement making Jerusalem the capital of both States.

It is with this in mind that France welcomed the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative and its recent reaffirmation.

Why and how is France responding to the prospect of annexation of part of the West Bank?}

The Israeli Government, which was sworn in on 17 May 2020, was formed on the basis of a coalition agreement including the possibility, from 1 July 2020, for Israel to annex part of the West Bank, meaning to exercise sovereignty over currently occupied Palestinian territories. Following the announcement of the normalization of Israel’s relations with the United Arab Emirates, which France welcomed, it committed to suspending its annexation projects temporarily. France considers that to be a positive decision, which should become a permanent measure.

The annexation of Palestinian territories, whatever the scope, would be a violation of international law, and particularly the prohibition of acquisition of territories by force. It would aggravate tensions and seriously compromise the two-state solution, and would be contrary to the interests of both Israelis and Palestinians, as well as Europeans and the wider the international community.
In this context, France and its willing partners are actively calling on the Israeli authorities to refrain from any unilateral action leading to the annexation of Palestinian territories. France indicated, including through the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, that such a decision, given its seriousness, could not go unanswered or be without consequence for the EU’s relations with Israel.

5. France considers that Jerusalem should become the capital of both States, Israel and the future State of Palestine.

Jerusalem has been entirely controlled by Israel since 1967, when Israel captured the eastern part of the city during the Six-Day War.

The question of the status of Jerusalem must be settled within the framework of peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians, focused on establishing two States, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security, with Jerusalem as the capital of both.

Pending a negotiated resolution of the conflict and in accordance with international law, particularly Security Council Resolution 478 (1980), France does not recognize any sovereignty over Jerusalem. The French President has therefore stated that he did not approve of President Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

France calls for the easing of tensions and respect for the status quo concerning Holy Places. Calling the status quo into question would risk causing serious destabilization.

What action is France taking?

6. France supports the creation of an independent, viable and sovereign Palestinian State.

France is supporting the Palestinian Authority on the path to establishing a future Palestinian State and strong and democratic institutions, through intense cooperation in institutional, economic, cultural and academic cooperation.

It dedicates considerable sums to assistance for the Palestinian Territories (more than €500 million over the period 2008-2017, and in 2020 it brought forward the annual budgetary assistance to the Palestinian Authority, amounting to €16 million, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic), approximately a third of which goes to Gaza. The Palestinian Territories remain the leading beneficiary of French budgetary assistance. France is also contributing to Palestinian economic development and particularly the private sector.

Long-standing decentralized cooperation between France and the Palestinian Territories also support these efforts. With €1.1 million contributed annually by around 50 French local governments, decentralized cooperation is now a major driver of the economic and political relations and solidarity between France and the Palestinian Territories. Some 126 projects are currently being implemented. In recent years, most projects have involved improving infrastructure and sustainable development (water management, sanitation, heritage conservation, training of local officials, young people). Since 2013, France and the Palestinian Authority have jointly worked to support the financing of these decentralized cooperation projects.

7. France supports the Palestinian people, especially where they are most vulnerable.

France is particularly concerned about the living conditions of Palestinians, which is intrinsically linked to resolution of the conflict.

France is first and foremost committed to addressing the humanitarian emergency. Our humanitarian assistance notably includes voluntary contributions to humanitarian agencies and humanitarian organizations. Our contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) totalled €20 million in 2020. France also takes part in EU joint assistance for the Palestinian Territories, providing €2 million in 2019.
In the Gaza Strip, France supports the population in a number of areas (food aid, vocational training, health) and through the presence of the Institut Français in Gaza, the only foreign cultural centre there.

The Agence Française de Développement (AFD, French development agency) has been active in the Palestinian Territories for 20 years and has funded around 80 projects totalling €473 million, 13 of which have concerned the water and sanitation fields. According to our estimates, these projects have provided or improved drinking water services for 800,000 people.

France and the European Union are also working, especially in Area C and East Jerusalem, to respond to evictions and demolitions, which are consequences of Israel’s settlement policy and take a toll on Palestinians’ daily lives and economic development. In 2019, a total of 393 Palestinian buildings, including homes, agricultural facilities and water supply infrastructure were destroyed in Area C, as against 271 in 2018, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

France renews its confidence in all of the international organizations whose action is helping us to move forward on the Israeli-Palestinian question, especially UNRWA, which is playing a crucial role providing assistance to more than five million Palestinian refugees.

8. France encourages inter-Palestinian reconciliation.

Inter-Palestinian reconciliation should enable the Palestinian Authority to fully exercise its prerogatives in the Gaza Strip, including in the area of security. Crucial for redesigning the political future, inter-Palestinian reconciliation is also urgently needed to improve the living conditions of people in the Gaza Strip and to ensure the security of the territory and its borders.

France also recalls the need for Hamas, which is on the European Union’s list of terrorist organizations, to do what the international community clearly expects it to do: recognize the State of Israel and past agreements, and renounce violence.

9. France is ready to do everything it can to enable resumption of a credible political process

France remains ready to support any initiative compliant with international law based on negotiation between Israelis and Palestinians and has the objective of two States, living in peace and security, in secure and recognized borders and both with Jerusalem as their capital. France maintains contact with both Israeli and Palestinian parties, to help ensure the continued viability of the two-state solution on the ground and enable a resumption of negotiations. International actors, the permanent members of the Security Council, and European and regional partners, have a role to play in restoring a political horizon.

September 2020