Mardi 16 Juillet 2019  

N°94 - Deuxième trimestre 2011

La lettre diplometque
  L’amitié franco-israélienne : un atout pour le processus de paix
  Mieux faire connaître Israël en France
  « Continuer à œuvrer ensemble pour accomplir l’idéal européen »
  France-Israël : « porter la relation économique bilatérale au niveau de la relation diplomatique »
  Le défi israélien des entreprises françaises : rattraper le peloton européen
  Israël affiche son dynamisme au 49ème Salon de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace du Bourget 2011
  IAI, un partenaire majeur de la France et de l’UE dans les technologies aérospatiales
  Israël : partenaire privilégié de la France pour l’innovation et la croissance des entreprises
  Le Technion : vecteur de la coopération scientifique franco-israélienne
  Le Conseil Pasteur-Weizman, fleuron de la collaboration scientifique entre la France et Israël
  Soixante années de coopération franco-israélienne dans le domaine des sciences humaines et sociales
  La Fondation France Israël : mieux se comprendre pour mieux entreprendre
  Marseille - Haïfa : plus de 50 ans de coopération
  « Perpétuer la mémoire de la Shoa »
République tchèque
Stratégie, Défense & Sécurité
Enjeux Économiques
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  BHI Bankhapoalim
Veolia environnement
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  S.E.M. / H.E. Yossi Gal

Working hard on all fronts, balancing caution and firmness

Israel is a haven of stability and prosperity at the heart of a Middle East in turmoil. It was welcomed into the OECD in 2010, in a testament to its successful economic development strategy. The deadlocked peace process with the Palestinian Authority remains, nonetheless, its main vulnerability.H.E. Yossi Gal, the Ambassador of Israel to France, describes the strides made in the strategic dialogue launched with Paris, and analyzes the leeway afforded to the Israeli government in its drive to bring peace and development to the region.

The Diplomatic Letter : Mr. Ambassador, Israel and France reaffirmed their close ties during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Paris on 4 May 2010. Could you describe for our readers the interest and stakes of the “strategic dialogue” pursued by the two countries since 2008? Has it given fresh momentum to bilateral relations?

H.E. Yossi Gal: France and Israel conduct very rich bilateral exchanges. On the political front, there has been a nonstop series of Israeli official visits since May 2011. Since our Prime Minister’s visit, no less than seven Israeli delegations, both ministerial and parliamentary, have visited France to meet with their counterparts. The exchanges between our countries cover every area of action and decision-making, including the defense and foreign affairs arenas, the finance, environmental and education sectors, and the legal and economic arenas.
This is true at the national as well as the local level. We are seeing a growing number of cultural and academic exchanges between Israeli and French cities. Our two countries are now linked by friendly ties and exchanges forged in more than sixty sister city programs. Our universities are bolstering their partnerships. This enhanced exchange of our respective knowledge and assets, between our States as well as our citizens, is bringing France and Israel closer all across the board.
I wish also to add that we appreciated the position taken by French diplomacy on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the kidnap of French-Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held by Hamas since 25 June 2006. President Nicolas Sarkozy said that “touching Gilad Shalit, is to attack France. “ As pointed out by Mr Alain Juppe, Minister of State and Minister of Foreign Affairs, he” is today the French hostage who has been in detention longer. “

T.D.L.: Speaking through its Foreign Affairs Minister Alain Juppé, who visited Israel and the Palestinian Territories on 1-2 June 2011, France has offered to host a Israeli-Palestinian peace conference. Is this an initiative you would welcome? In light of the failed summit held in Washington in September 2010, what in your view could French and European diplomatic leaders be doing to help rekindle direct talks between the two parties?

We have great appreciation for France. In fact, we believe that France and the European Union (EU) could play a key role, which is why we are currently talking with all the international players, including, of course, the United States, in order to bring the conflict to an end instead of dragging it out.
We understand the French initiative and salute France’s efforts to rekindle a direct dialogue between our country and the Palestinians. But the real challenge right now is Hamas. There is a general consensus on this organization, which not only does not respect any of the Quartet’s conditions, but has also been labeled a terrorist organization by the EU. The other big challenge is Abu Mazen’s determination to push for unilateral recognition, instead of talks with Israel.
We spelled out to France and the United States, very clearly, the terms for a framework agreement between Israel and the Palestinians: any future peace agreement must put an end to the conflict and to Palestinian claims as concerns Israel. To that end, the Palestinians must recognize Israel as the State of the Jewish people. A solution to the refugee problem must also be found outside the borders of Israel. Any peace agreement must satisfy Israel’s security needs. As regards Jerusalem, as our Prime Minister reiterated while in the United States: “with creativity and goodwill a solution can be found.»
In other words, all these issues - including the borders and Jerusalem - can be resolved, provided there is a genuine will to end the conflict. But in Israel, we have the feeling this will is lacking in our partners, unfortunately.

T.D.L.: France is stepping in as a mediator as the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, presses forward with efforts to have the UN General Assembly vote on recognition of a Palestinian State in September 2011. Are you fearful of the possible consequences of this initiative in the diplomatic arena? Could a unilateral declaration of independence and Palestinian statehood harm the peace process?

H.E.Y.G.: We Israelis believe that holding direct talks is the only possible way to achieve real and lasting peace. That has always been the case, most notably with the peace agreements signed with Egypt and Jordan. An unnegotiated unilateral decision will not lead us one step closer to peace.
The fact of the matter is, Israel is fully committed to making peace, a peace the Palestinians now refuse to negotiate. A mere declaration in September 2011 by the United Nations, even one recognized by the majority of the world’s countries, can not impose peace.
The basic problems must first be resolved. Peace must be built on the ground, and not only on paper. Peace must be forged between our two peoples, and there is only one way to do that: the Palestinians must return to the negotiating table.
I think there is an internal debate raging within the Palestinian government, as many Palestinian leaders are well aware that this unilateral approach could generate more problems than solutions.

T.D.L.: In a speech before the U.S. Congress on 24 May 2011, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was ready to make “painful compromises,” but rejected the idea of reverting to the 1967 borders, as suggested by President Barack Obama. Could you tell us what concessions your country would be willing to make, and what it expects in return?

H.E.Y.G.: Our Prime Minister told the U.S. Congress in May 2011 that he was ready to make painful concessions for peace, working, of course, within the scope of the conditions laid out by the Quartet. “This is not easy for me,” he said. “I recognize that in a genuine peace, we will be required to give up parts of the Jewish homeland ...(...).. The Palestinians share this small land with us ...(...).. They should enjoy a prosperous economy, where their creativity and initiative can flourish.”
We have made numerous gestures with the aim of getting the Palestinians back to the negotiating table since Benjamin Netanyahu took office. Because we cannot just hope for peace, we have to work for peace. The State of Israel has taken concrete steps to improve the quality of life and freedom of movement for Palestinians, and to bolster the Palestinian economy. The government pledged the Israeli people’s confidence by declaring, for the first time, a halt in the construction of new settlements for nearly one full year! Immediately following his election, our Prime Minister came out in favor, for the very first time, of the creation of two nation-states, one Jewish and one Palestinian. The Prime Minister has proved his commitment to peace by making manifold trust-filled pro-peace gestures that are unprecedented from any other Israeli government.
But the Palestinian Authority is mired in a troubling stance, continuing to systematically reject any peace initiative put forward by Israel.

T.D.L.: President Obama has reconfirmed the “inalterable ties” between Israel and the United States, despite their differences over the borders of the future Palestinian State and the halting of settlement construction in the West Bank. What is your take on the Israeli and American governments’ inability to see eye to eye on the details of the peace process?

H.E.Y.G.: Israel and the United States share truly extraordinary relations, built on heartfelt ties, great friendship, and deep mutual understanding. We are each, in our own way, a pioneering forward-looking people.
We are proud to have such strong ties with the entire American political class, and with U.S. Jewish communities, of course, but also with the American people as a whole. We feel very close to each other. Isn’t that the very definition of friendship? We have our differences now and again, but we tackle them head on, offering further proof of our friendship.

T.D.L.: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called the unity pact to form an interim government, struck on 4 May 2011 between the two main Palestinian political forces, Fatah and Hamas, a “mortal blow to peace.” What do you see as the motives behind this accord, which puts an end to the political split between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank? Do you think the Palestinian elections scheduled for 2012 could lead to a scaling back of Hamas’ influence and its extremist demands towards Israel?

As our Prime Minister said, after meeting with the President of the French Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy, on 5 May 2011: “Palestinian unity isn’t unity for peace.”  The reality is, unfortunately, quite clear and sad. Hamas is still saying, loud and clear, that it will continue its terrorist actions, will never recognize Israel, and will never make peace with us. This is the polar opposite of the Quartet principles set out by the international community.
The reconciliation on paper between Fatah and Hamas does not meet the conditions for peace with Israel. Palestinian leaders must now make some clear choices: they can choose peace with Israel, or they can throw themselves into the arms of the extremism of Hamas and Iran.

T.D.L.: Your country is directly concerned by the popular uprisings that have erupted in several Arab countries, starting with Egypt and Syria. How has this affected your country’s geopolitical climate and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Can you explain for our readers the Israeli government’s cautious stance on these revolts and the democratic yearnings they express?

H.E.Y.G.: We in Israel - who defend, day in and day out, values such as human rights, the equality of men and women, free speech, and justice - support all movements that advocate greater democracy and strive to make Arab countries more open to others, and to Israel in particular.
But no one can say what the future holds. Will it be good, or bad? For Arab peoples, for the entire world, or for Israel? No one knows. But what we do know is why these uprisings are occurring. The corruption of the regimes in power, the systematic repression of freedoms, and poor economic conditions are the main factors that have spurred on and rallied the Arab youth at the root of these popular uprisings.
These young people, who constitute the majority of the population of Arab countries, want to move towards the democracy the new social media are showing them at work in the West every day. A better daily life, a job, and greater freedoms: these are the democratic values that men and women in Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Tunisia and Egypt are stepping up to courageously demand.
But there are easily identifiable dangers here too. First and foremost among them are the fundamentalist elements already lying in wait: organized, mobilized and ready to jump in and turn this fragile, transitional situation to their advantage.

T.D.L.: As an advocate of a “new Middle East,” President Shimon Peres has underscored the great opportunities arising from this “era of change.” Given the ties Israel has forged with numerous Gulf States, including Qatar, can it seize these opportunities in  such a way to strengthen cooperation with neighboring countries? Is the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) a promising framework for fostering development, especially in technical sectors such as water resources management?

H.E.Y.G.: As our President, Shimon Peres, said in Washington in April 2011: “We believe that the awakening of the Arab world is a great opportunity and that all of us should do whatever we can [to help].”
The Union for the Mediterranean project could help push forward concrete projects capable of forging a new reality that would change peoples’ mindsets about energy, the environment, teaching, culture, and, most notably, education. This would promote the goal of building a prosperous Mediterranean world and putting an end to all forms of hate-mongering.
We have supported the UfM, a French initiative dear to President Sarkozy, from the outset.  We are ready to work with France and with the EU to advance the noble idea of a Mediterranean which is united with Europe by trade ties, which fosters exchanges between peoples, and which helps build a better region for us all.

T.D.L.: With tensions rising at the Israel-Syria border, President Bachar el Hassad’s government is drawing increasing criticism for its crackdown on demonstrators inside Syria. Are you concerned about the growing instability in this country? Could this have repercussions on the security situation in Israel, given Syria’s close ties with Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah? On a broader level, is the emergence of an Ankara-Damascus-Teheran axis the result of the collapse of the Israeli-Turkish strategic partnership?

H.E.Y.G.: France has been on the front line when it comes to denouncing the tyrannical regimes in Syria and Libya. Regimes which are, horror of horrors, slaughtering their own people in order to cling to power.
Syria is willing to do anything, even the worst imaginable acts. It is sowing chaos in the region, as can be seen in the Golan Heights, where its army is encouraging unrest and agitation at the border with Israel. Hezbollah’s growing influence on political and military leaders in Lebanon is another source of concern for us.
As regards Turkey, Israel sincerely hopes, as our Prime Minister has said, to write a new chapter “in the hope of reestablishing our cooperation and renewing the spirit of friendship which has characterized the relations between our peoples for many generations.”  We have no desire to fuel tensions of any kind with Turkey. We are not the ones who sparked the deterioration of our relations. Our disagreements could easily be smoothed over through diplomacy, which is surely better than continuing to incite each other.

T.D.L.: Despite the strides made in the “Arab Spring,” Israel has warned that Iran can still inflict great harm and continues to consider the dismantling of that country’s nuclear program a top priority. With the Syrian regime weakened, do you think Teheran is in a position to heighten its influence in these upheavals? Can the international community, in your view, put real pressure on Teheran?

Iran still represents a real threat to our region and to world peace. It is now trying to export is ideology to Arab countries as well as the Persian Gulf. The Iranian regime is attempting to destabilize our region by arming and even overarming terrorist organizations. The ship intercepted by our navy on the high sea, in March 2011, proved that Iran is determined to undermine peace and to supply arms to Hamas and Hezbollah.
Iran is arming the enemies of peace in our region. We all now recognize that a nuclear-capable Iran is unacceptable and presents a threat to our entire region. The international community - and France, the United Kingdom and the United States in particular - must continue to enforce severe political sanctions in order to send the Iranians a clear message: the free world will never tolerate Iran’s warmongering and destabilizing attitude. 
Not only does the Iranian regime want to “wipe Israel off the map,” it wants to abolish all freedoms inside its own country. Over the past two years, we have witnessed the bloody repression of protest movements led by Iranian youths, as well as the regression of basic human rights and freedoms.
We share French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé’s view on this matter. Israel, like France, cannot remain silent, because “these universal values, upheld so bravely by the people of the region, including Iran,” are shared by both France and Israel.

T.D.L.: Mindful of the key role Russia has long played in the Middle East, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a working visit to Moscow in March 2011. Are you counting on Russia to help shore up regional stability, given its strong economic ties with Iran and Syria?

H.E.Y.G.: Russia is a very important country that belongs to both the Quartet and the Security Council. It carries significant weight on the international stage. It has built up strong ties in the Near and Middle East, where it has become a key player. The international community’s objectives as concerns Iran do not clash with Russian interests, which is why Russia, just like China, supports the sanctions against the Iranian regime approved by the UN.

T.D.L.: The announcement on 2 May 2011 of the death of Osama bin Laden, the head of the al-Qaeda terrorist organization, nearly ten years after the September 11th attacks, marked a turning point in the battle against terrorism. Could you describe the effect this has had on radical Islamic movements and on public opinion in the Middle East? Do you agree with the various Western leaders who have called the uprisings in Arab countries a sign of the failure of the religious fundamentalism advocated by al-Qaeda?

Israel, like the rest of the Western world, thanks the United States for this action. The death of the father of al-Qaeda is an important victory in the fight against terrorism. But, unfortunately, it was just one battle won. The war on terrorism, fanaticism and fundamentalism has not yet been won. The uprisings we witnessed this spring could still be manipulated by political movements with objectives that are anything but democratic. The terror alert level in France is still very high, which proves that terrorism continues to represent a real danger which we all have to face.

T.D.L.: The Israeli economy has remained extremely dynamic in these difficult economic times, posting a growth rate above 4% in 201 0. To what do you attribute this strong performance? Will the discovery of new natural gas fields off the coast of Israel change the country’s economic or strategic positions? What has your country gained by joining the OECD, in terms of enhancing economic governance and expert exchanges?

H.E.Y.G.: The Israeli economy grew by nearly 4.7% in 2010, or almost double the average rate in OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries. In the last quarter of 2010, we even saw a record setting 7% increase!   
But the successes of the Israeli economy are no miracle. They are the result of very determined monetary, budgetary, and economic policies, along with well-reasoned pro-innovation choices taken by our successive governments. Israel invests close to 6% of its GDP in research every year. It has decided to focus on education and training, heavy investments in startups, and research and development, which have been great challenges in years past and are now recognized the world over as great successes. These strategic choices have, in other words, enabled Israel to navigate through the global economic crisis. Our 2010 admission into the OECD shows that Israel is now recognized as one of the engines of the global technology economy.
To answer your question about energy, we are at the first stage of development of the gas fields that you mention. They could represent an additional asset for our economy as Israel has few resources. In fact, its wealth is its people. Of course, we will make every effort to develop these new energy resources, but not at the expense of our investments in research and development. In addition, a consensus has formed in our country to move towards greater consideration of environmental issues. This awareness has also increased since our accession to the OECD. We thus set a target to raise by 2020 the share of renewable energy to 20% of in the electricity production.

T.D.L.: In his speech on 4 May 2011 before the France-Israel Chamber of Commerce and Industry, France’s head of government, Alain Juppé, underscored the need to strengthen economic and trade ties between Israel and France. A special Franco-Israeli Innovation Day will be held on 5 December 2011. In what other sectors would you like to see the two countries’ business leaders work together more closely? Given the large French-speaking community in Israel, do you think bilateral cultural ties and university cooperation programs could help get things moving in this direction?

The France-Israel relationship is characterized by dynamic bilateral ties that grow stronger with every passing year. France and Israel share numerous and regular cultural exchanges, imbued with great mutual admiration for the quality of our respective artists.
In 2011, Israeli culture is once again shining under the skies of France. The Cannes Film Festival awarded its Best Screenplay award to Israeli director Joseph Cedar, for his film “ Footnote ”. The Louvre Museum is exhibiting, for the first time, a large-scale video installation featuring the contemporary works of artist Michal Rovner. Israeli literature is also growing increasingly popular in France, as witnessed by the recent book tour there by our renowned writer David Grossman, to promote the French translations of his works. Israel’s participation in the Designer’s Days week is also noteworthy. These are all testaments to the great attachment our countries have to the cultures of our two peoples. 
In the economic arena, I agree with France’s Minister of Industry Eric Besson: the trade volume between our two countries is too low! We would like to double the volume of bilateral trade within the next five years. In 2010, French sales to Israel totaled $1.5 billion, while Israeli exports to France stood at $1.25 billion. Growth sectors such as information technology, biotechnology, and green energies are being given special focus in Israel and are top priorities in France as well. Israel’s innovative spirit could help our two countries do even better, which is why more and more meet-ups need to be organized between French and Israeli entrepreneurs. We have real cultural, economic and historical ties that stretch beyond our political meetings, but they need to be strengthened, in the best interest of both of our countries and both of our peoples.    

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