Segolene Royale (photo from her official web site)
The JTA has a piece on the Jewish vote in the French presidential race. A number of French Jews interviewed in the article who identified themselves as backers of the Socialists are voting for Nicolas Sarkozy, the Gaullist candidate this time. The conclusion of the reporter's analysis, apparently based on the opinion of one Michael Sebban, a 38-year-old high school philosophy teacher, is that French Jews are not so much voting for Sarkozy as against the Socialist candidate Segolene Royale. The reason cited: her inexperience in foreign policy, especially when it comes to the Middle East.
The article rather uncritically parrots the line that Royale is anti-Israel. As we have reported previously (see bottom), this is simply not true. The JTA article also paints Royal 's Middle East trip as a debacle. That was certainly not the Israeli impression - see Daniel Ben-Simon's feature in Ha'aretz, "Diplomatic neophyte? No way," written in the wake of the Segolene craze that swept through Israel when Royal visited the country.
Of course, the French Socialist party is hardly a great friend of Israel - but neither is Chirac's Union pour un Mouvement Populaire. For the classical UMP line one only has to look at Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie's work during and after the Lebanon war.
One of the top priorities for French Jews, as the JTA article also suggests, is fighting crime and antisemitic attacks, especially in the suburbs that are home to large populations of North African immigrants and their children. Much of France's Jewish population is also North African. In the past, the Jewish and Muslim Algerians, Tunisians, and Moroccans may have cooperated on social issues, but that era has come to an end with the explosion of attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions since 2000. Sarkozy has been unequivocal in his efforts to combat crime and assaults on Jews. This stance, combined with his support for Israel, have endeared him even to those traditionally aligned with the Socialists. French Jews, like American Jews, have traditionally voted for the left. It remains to be seen whether they will continue voting Socialist (just as American Jews have continued voting for the Democrats) or switch over to the Gaullists.