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Monday, December 11, 2006

The Very French Rise of Ségolène Royal, La Belle Dragon: The Next President of France?

I don't know about the rest of you, but I have been very curious about the upcoming French Presidential election. I knew that most of the Jews planned to vote for Nicolas Sarcozy, and I thought it was due to his tough handling of the 'intifadeh' that's going on in the suburbs outside of Paris. And yet, Segolene Royal (pictured at left) made such a good impression when she was here, covering up for a major gap during a meeting with a Hezbullah general, and saying that she 'understands' Israel's need for overflights of Lebanon.

I was hoping to hear from both Nidra Poller and Richard Landes regarding which of the candidates is 'good for the Jews.' Richard hasn't weighed in yet, but Nidra has and her answer is quite clear: Royal is all fluff and no substance. Sarcozy is good for the Jews.
Triumphant on the home front, the Socialist candidate set out on a Middle East tour designed to serve as a three-dimensional real time disclaimer of the alleged policy vacuum behind her heartwarming smile. News leaked that Royal, who had repeatedly declined invitations to meet with the CRIF (Jewish umbrella organization), was going to Lebanon without stopping in Israel. Shortly afterward, Israel and of course the territories were added to the itinerary…but there is no proof of a cause & effect relation between these two details. Nonetheless, things have gone sour since Royal’s spokesman, Julien Dray, started blaming the Sarkozy Jews for stirring the uproar over her Lebanese gaffes, and then blew away a member of the CRIF who approached him in the lobby of the King David Hotel to request an interview with the candidate.

The bumpy Mideast outing is just the beginning of a perilous campaign in which the charm offensive will collide with the hard realities it strives to dissimulate. Royal had planned to visit a Lebanon on the mend from the “Israeli offensive,” reconstructing under the watchful eye of the beefed-up UNIFIL and the benevolent gaze of Lebanon’s best friend, la France de la compassion. She landed in Beirut just as Hizbullah was putting the finishing touches to its devious coup d’état in the form of a massive popular demonstration. Les citoyens dans la rue, power to the Hizbullah people and the Siniora government holed up in the Serail, trembling but determined to resist.

Ségolène’s condolence visit to the Gemayel family and her pre-condolence visits to Siniora, Jumblatt, etc. were not exactly opportune. One might go a step further and say that political stumping at that particular moment, when the legitimate government had a knife to its throat, was indecent.

The Chirac government had bemoaned the plight of the Lebanese in July-August, when it could be blamed on Israel; it has been conspicuously silent about the current crisis. And Royal? If elected would she pursue the policy she advocated as the masses poured into the center of Beirut? She advised all parties to get together and talk things over. Siniora, Gemayel, and their allies could not hide their embarrassment. They joined the French ambassador in begging Ms. Royal to leave before the December 1st siege. She responded with cockeyed courage: if she left, it would mean the country was in dire straits. So, by staying, she proved it wasn’t?

Ignoring the ominous inner circle of Hizbullah fighters, she treated the demonstration as if it were the Lebanese equivalent of the anti-CPE movement that so amused the French media last spring.

Visiting French UNIFIL troops in Naqura, she deplored Israeli flyovers as if they were just short of WMDs.

Dining with members of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Commission she found common ground with Hizbullah MP Ali Ammar’s fuming diatribe against the demented United States and the Nazi-Zionist entity.

When all of these gaffes caught up with her—by then she was in Jordan—Ségolène Royal called a press conference to set the record straight…and twisted it a bit more. Her tender loving “I listen to everyone” façade is fragile. When she is challenged, when she is out of her element, when she feels insecure, she becomes haughty and disdainful.

Why didn’t she react when Israel was compared to the Nazis? Madame la marquise blames it on the domestics…the translator didn’t translate that remark. Journalists press the point? Madame is indignant! How dare anyone question her good faith? Still not convinced that Monsieur Ammar actually said what he said—he has since confirmed down to the last comma—she knows that she would have left the room in protest if he had said it. Which would have been a bit complicated, concretely, because she would have had to run right back into the room to express her agreement with his observation about the demented U.S. Mideast policy.

If Hizbullah was on the menu in Beirut under siege how about Hamas for desert in Gaza? She reiterated her principle— any and all democratically elected officials are proper fare—but her advisors must have told her not to risk another loss in translation. In Gaza she met with young people at the French cultural center (rebuilt, I suppose, after it was sacked during the Danish cartoon jihad) and crowned the visit with a mutual admiration duo with Mahmud Abbas who, according to her entourage, received her as if she were a head of state. Considering the narrow limits of the PA president’s power, why not?

While the controversy stirred and boiled in France, Little Miss Royal was received as a charming French femme in Israel where her lovely smile and solemn declarations about the inviolable security of Israel were taken at face value. Chances are that only French-speaking Israelis knew about her previous faux pas and contradictory convictions. Curiously enough, reports on the Socialist candidate’s babe in the woods behavior came from French journalists who accompanied her, not from impudent bloggers slunking on the sidelines. One had the impression that they were shocked by her lack of savoir faire.
Read the whole thing.


At 4:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sarkozy has definitely been undeniably pro-Israel the longest, and even supported Israel during the war this summer despite a lot of intense criticism in France. However, Royal has been one of the most ardent opponent of Iran's nuclear program outside of Israel, and has repeatedly said that as president, she would work to ban Iran from even having a civilian nuclear program. For Israelis, its somewhat of a win-win in comparison to the last few decades of French leadership.

French Election 2007


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