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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

France isn't really favoring Israel

In international relations, there are no friends, only interests. And lest we Israelis get all excited about France's seeming tilt in our favor recently, Time Magazine reports that even with Sarkozy in power, the French don't love us any more than they did under DeGaulle.
Whereas French presidents since Charles de Gaulle have tilted towards the Arab states and demanded more of Israel in the search for peace, Sarkozy has embraced Israel as an ally and has put its security on a par with Palestinian rights. Sarkozy's warmth toward Israel should not be mistaken for a strategic shift. French national interests have been defined to include close relations with Arab states, after all, and those ties have actually been quietly deepened even as Sarkozy has reached out to Israel.

"Apart from his dealings with Israel and his very radical stand against Iran, Sarkozy's Middle East policy has been very similar to those of his predecessors — only with more activist engagement," explains Jean-François Daguzan, a Middle East expert at the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris. "Sarkozy has shown he wants France to play a much larger, active role in the region than it has in the past, and to do that it has to have stronger ties to Israel, but without alarming its traditional Arab allies."

Indeed, there is plenty of evidence of Sarkozy strengthening ties in the Arab world during his tenure. He brought Syria out from international isolation, for starters, and then sought to use Paris' privileged position with Damascus to create political stability in Lebanon. Earlier this year, Sarkozy similarly enlisted Syria and Egypt to help his drive to halt the violence in Gaza. Sarkozy has also upped France's ability to project power in the region — and sent yet another warning in Iran's direction — with this year's inauguration of a new permanent French military naval and air compound in Abu Dhabi.

"Sarkozy has also improved his relations with leaders in Iraq with an eye toward reconstruction there," Daguzan notes with a chuckle. "That may be the only move that Americans might take issue with, since the rest of what he'd done his largely been moving in the same direction as U.S."

The single most important explanation for Sarkozy's activism in search of a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is, of course, a simple one: He's trying to succeed where, until now, the U.S. has failed.
I'm so relieved. I was beginning to think they might actually have decided that they like us or something.


At 10:04 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

The French have to have friendly relations with the Arabs out of necessity not because they like them. France is an oil-poor country so it can't afford to ignore those who do have the oil. And the French are masters at pursuing their interests to the hilt. Israel can take a lesson from them in the disinterested pursuit of statecraft.

At 10:53 PM, Blogger Andre (Canada) said...

Yes but France imports little oil relatively speaking: 80% of its electricity is nuclear and it has ample natural gas for heating and industrial consumption. It also has some national oil production.


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