Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Segolene-Jewish row

This past weekend when Segolene Royal was in Jerusalem her spokersperson Julian Dray got into a shouting match with a member of the French-Jewish organization CRIF. Haaretz has an excellent overview:

A snub from Segolene Royal

By Daniel Ben Simon

It was a very embarrassing moment. The scene: the lobby of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. The players: Segolene Royal's spokesman Julian Dray and a representative of CRIF, the umbrella organization of the Jewish community in France. "I have nothing to talk to you about!" said Dray heatedly to the astonished Jewish representative. "You have sold your soul to the other side; you have nothing to look for with us. Go back to your friend Nicolas Sarkozy; he's your landlord."

The CRIF representative tried with all his might to convince Dray that his organization is taking an absolutely objective position with regard to the presidential race in France. But Dray stuck to his guns. "You are going to pay dearly for your one-sided mustering," he went on to shout. "Segolene will be president, and you will have to pray for her to receive you for a discussion."
It is an open secret that the Jews as an organized body have sworn allegiance to the candidate of the right, Sarkozy. At every opportunity, he meets with them and consults with them. At every opportunity they evince enthusiasm for him that is intended to convey the impression they are supporting him in his race for the presidency.

This is the reason Royal did not accept an invitation to meet with the heads of the organization in recent months. This is also the reason she ignored their existence when she decided at the last minute to pop over to Israel and the reason the party spokesman related to the representative of the organization as though he were a leper.
This situation does not work to the benefit of French Jews, of Israel and of relations between the two countries. CRIF achieved its greatness because it appeared to be a bridge that stretched over the turbulent waters of French politics. This is the reason the elders of the country, no matter from which camp, went to the trouble of accepting every invitation to appear before its members, in the knowledge that the Jewish organization is a French institution that rises above political disputes.

And there is another risk inherent here. When the alliance between the Jews and the presidential candidate of the right becomes a consolidated fact, the voters from Muslim backgrounds will flock to the Socialist candidate to serve as a counterweight to the Jews.

To the extent that the Jews will expect a return for their support of Sarkozy, the Muslims will expect a similar return for their support of Royal. If this happens, the distance between the two communities, which are embroiled in any case, is liable to grow even larger.

Anyway, this is quite a telling moment for the Royal campaign, especially coming in Israel. Both she and Nicolas Sarkozy are likely to bring about a certain degree of thaw in French-Israeli relations, but obviously, these voting blocs, the Muslims and Jews, may impede progress on either front.

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1 comment:

James P said...

The Muslim constituency in France would probably be predisposed towards a Socialist candidate anyway. However,Sarkozy's public pronouncements will probably mobilise active Muslim support for Royal.

For her own benefit, Royal should perhaps try to balance her critical independence from the US with efforts to neutralise some of the Jewish opposition to her candidacy.