Today French Socialist Segolene Royal will begin a several day visit to the Middle East. Her first stop will be in Lebanon, where she will be meeting with the family of recently assassinated politician Pierre Gemayel, the Lebanese Prime Minister and parliament speaker, and with French troops participating in the UNIFIL mission. After that she is expected to go to Israel on Sunday, meeting with both Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. Royal will also visit the Palestinian territories before returning to France around Tuesday of next week.
Her trip will be fulfilling three basic political needs. To start, the Achilles heal of her campaign has been her lack of foreign experience, and this trip will attempt to at least blunt that charge. Secondly, she has faced criticism from Jewish groups at home for not showing much interest in Israel, and meeting with the leaders of Israel is a step in the right direction. Finally, the trip will garner a great deal of media coverage, undercutting Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy just as he begins his official run for presidency.
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