JERUSALEM – Welcomed as a friend in Israel, Francois Hollande is visiting the Palestinian Territories on November 18, where he will try again to influence the Israeli-Palestinian peace process that is almost at a standstill, before his address at the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament. Earlier, the President of the French Republic met with Christian leaders in Jerusalem and the Palestinian civil and political society.
François Hollande began his second day in the Holy Land by meeting with Christian leaders (Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox) at the Basilica of Saint Anne, which is under the care of the Missionaries of Africa ( White Fathers) in the old city.
The French President sent “ a message of peace because peace requires that all rights are respected, the rights of the Palestinians and Israelis” and reiterated that” Jerusalem must become the capital of two states if the negotiations are successful, and if a peace agreement is achieved. ”
Among the leaders of the Christian Churches, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem was the first to speak, after the speech of the French president, with a reminder that Jerusalem should retain its Christian identity, and that the Holy Places be made readily accessible to the Christians.
Patriarch Fouad Twal thanked the President for “his kindness to meet us and listen to us,” adding that “other politicians come to Jerusalem without thinking about the presence of Christians and religious leaders who live here.” The Patriarch explained that “it is not the Church leaders who will make peace but politicians cannot make peace without the religious leaders, and apart from the spiritual dimension.”
The Patriarch asked the President to help Christian institutions to survive in the Holy Land, and to use “his friendship with Israel to promote peace and justice.” Finally, the Patriarch also stated that if France invested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, would 10 or 5% of the current efforts be used to change the situation in Syria, then we might expect a lasting resolution.
The French President said in Jerusalem that he expected goodwill “gestures ” from Israel on the settlement activity in the occupied territories to contribute to the peace process. ”Actions from the Israeli side began to emerge, the release of Palestinian prisoners,“ but “more are expected, including settlements,” he said at a press conference alongside his counterpart, President Shimon Peres. Hollande indicated he would discuss today in Ramallah with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the “ gestures ” that he expects “from the Palestinian side ” .
BY: Christophe Lafontaine, LPJ