French Foreign Minister Critical Of Israeli Settlements

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner speaking in Bethlehem at the investors conference for Palestinian aid, made clear his nation’s opposition to current Israel efforts on the West Bank. He was particularly critical of West Bank settlement expansion. “Nothing justifies the settlement expansion which constitutes an impediment to peace as well as an obstacle obstructing the development of the Palestinian economy.” He also urged the Israel government to re-evaluate its current program of road blocks and interference with the right of movement of Palestinians. He said, Israel should and can exert more effots to (ease the restrictions) without endangering security.” The three day conference is designed to revive the Palestinian econonomy which has virtually collapsed due, in many ways, to Israeli restrictions on the free movement of people and goods.

Naturally, the Israel government claimed it was doing everything within its power to assist the development of the Palestinian economy and was working to “create greater movement and access for Palestinians while maintaining security,” according to Mark
Regev who spoke for Prime Minister Olmert.

Kouchner is absolutely correct in raising the issue of West Bank settlements which have been going on for over twenty years and which increasingly make difficult any Israel agreement with Palestinian leaders. As settlements increase, the sense of Israel permanency in what was supposed to be a Palestinian area makes for difficulty in reaching an agreement unless Palestinian leaders surrender land that was rightfully part of a Palestinian nation.