(Post by LB)
Nicholas Sarkozy, President of France, is considered a friend to both Israel and the United States. He is certainly a huge step in the right direction from his predecessor, Jacques Chirac. He is proud of his Jewish roots (his maternal grandfather was born Jewish is Greece, then converted to Catholicism), and has spoken often about Israel’s right to defend itself.
That being said, Sarkozy has had his moments in which he at least sounds like he is equivocating on that firm support. During Shimon Peres’ visit to France in March of this year, Sarkozy said that it is crucial for Israel to stop its “colonization” in the West Bank in order for there to be peace. While running for president in May, 2007, Sarkozy defended the security barrier, saying that it was on disputed ground, and when peace came, they would negotiate its route. But on his recent visit to Israel, Sarkozy said that, “One does not protect oneself with a wall”.
Jonathan Rosenthal explores this question in the World Politics Review. Especially worrying is Sarkozy’s equation of historical injustice against Jews and the current Palestinian situation. Rosenthal relates:
The very next day, moreover, during a joint press conference in Bethlehem with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, Sarkozy’s tone was significantly less friendly — toward Israel, at any rate. Indeed, Sarkozy went so far as to employ one of the stock motifs of contemporary “anti-Zionism”: drawing a moral equivalence between the “injustice” done to “the Jewish people” — presumably a reference to the Holocaust — and the “injustice” allegedly done by Israel to the Palestinians and darkly insinuating that in the minds of Israelis the two were somehow related. “I told our Israeli friends,” Sarkozy said sternly, “that one won’t resolve the injustice done to the Jewish people by creating the conditions of an injustice for the Palestinian people.”
Rosenthal does not give his verdict, but in my mind, Sarkozy has been a welcome gust of fresh air from France, and in spite of his verbal agreement with some stances of the Israeli left, he has been far better than any of our most optimistic fantasies about friendly French leadership. If anyone had suggested two years ago that France would elect a pro-Israel, Pro-American president, he would have been passed off as wildly out of touch with French sentiment. We should consider ourselves fortunate for Sarkozy’s success, and for his willingness to speak his mind.