French FM: Israel’s desire for peace has ‘vanished’

JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israel’s desire for peace seems to have "completely vanished," France’s foreign minister said.

"What really hurts me, and this shocks us, is that before there used to be a great peace movement in Israel.," Bernard Kouchner told France Inter radio Tuesday. "There was a left that made itself  heard and a real desire for peace.

"It seems to me, and I hope that I am completely wrong, that this desire has completely vanished, as though people no longer believe in it."

Kouchner made his statements ahead of a scheduled meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and French President Nicolas Sarkozy set for Wednesday. The meeting comes immediately after a sit-down between Netanyahu and President Obama in Washington on Monday, at which no major breakthroughs were announced.

Kouchner also said a there was “a real difference of political opinion,” between French President Sarkozy and Netanyahu, concerning whether or not to freeze settlement activity.

“We still think that the settlement freeze, that is to say, no settling during (peace) talks, is absolutely essential,” said Kouchner.
 

France has continued to demand that Israel halt all construction in the West Bank, which the Palestinians say is a precondition to restarting peace talks. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton recently called Israel’s restraint in settlement construction "unprecedented." 

Kouchner also said Tuesday that he would visit the Middle East "in the coming days" and encourage Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to run for re-election in January. Abbas has said he will not run.
 

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