Thursday, March 13, 2008

Barbarians at the Gates

Shimon Peres and Nicholas Sarkozy bumping chests (Photo: Ynet).

Israeli President Shimon Peres inaugurated the literary festival, Le Salon du Livre, in Paris today, capping a warm reception in France that is being widely interpreted as a signal of the revitalized relationship between the two nations. But has the French position on Israel really changed? I'm not sure. But I would tend to see recent developments as the outgrowth of French President Nicholas Sarkozy's own personal preference for close, public ties with the Jewish state, and not as a fundamental reorientation of the French foreign policy (as Le Monde). Sarko is special. First he married Carla Bruni, former femme fatale of the French intelligentsia, now he wants to require every French schoolchild to "adopt" a coeval victim of the Holocaust. What will make things interesting for the outside observer is that the Sarkozy administration contains in addition to the one in the Élysée an equally strong personality on the Quai d'Orsay: foreign minister Bernard Kouchner. He has deep ties to nearly everyone in Lebanese politics -- though it seems he couldn't convince the Lebanese delegation to today's Salon not to boycott, which was indeed a major loss for a Francophonie that is under assault from cultural critics. But those ties, combined with Sarkozy's energetic engagement with the Middle East, which has already included visits from the Maghreb to the Gulf, (where the French are establishing a permanent base in Abu-Dhabi), may pay dividends for the peace process, for the effort to contain Iranian nuclear ambitions, and more. Or maybe I'm too optimistic. At any rate, cheers to the Israelis whose psyches may have been salved today by those gatekeepers of the world community, the French.


Nobody said...

dunno if you are interested in this ... maybe you'd like to comment on this

Jeha said...

I hate to say this; at this stage of the game, we Lebanese can have no initiatives. We can only follow where the current leads us.

I personally consider that politics should be separate from life and culture. This may require some schizophrenic mindset, but in our crazy middle east, this may prove healthy.

But I matter next to nothing. And neither do our politicos and government. We'll see what's left after the coming storm. Then those left standing can address those issues... Or, more likely, go back to cave painting.

Anonymous said...
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Amos said...

Shortly before Sarkozy's victory, there were some skeptics who suggested that he would do little to change Chirac's policies in the world and the Middle East. But I think we are seeing a major reorientation of Paris's foreign policy, of which Sarkozy's strong positions on Iran and his support for Israel are only two examples.

Nobody said...

another shalom haver post: shalom haver