(photo credit: AP)
French president-elect Nicolas Sarkozy received a higher percentage of votes from French citizens in Israel than from expatriates in any other country, according to the French Foreign Ministry.
It said 90.7 percent of French citizens living in Israel outside of Jerusalem voted for Sarkozy, significantly higher than the 53% percent of the vote he garnered in France. According to Israeli diplomatic officials, Sarkozy was viewed by expatriates here as being pro-Israel.
Some 6,276 French citizens - or just 19% of eligible French voters in Israel - cast absentee ballots.
In Jerusalem, under the jurisdiction of the French Consulate and not the French Embassy in Tel Aviv, some 2,500 people voted, 87% of them for Sarkozy.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert phoned Sarkozy on Monday to congratulate him on his victory. According to the Prime Minister's Office, Sarkozy said: "I am a friend of Israel, and Israel can always count on my friendship."
The two men agreed to speak again soon after Sarkozy takes office. Olmert is expected to meet Sarkozy in Paris this summer.
In the US, Sarkozy won just under 64% of absentee ballots, in England 53% (the same as he received in France) and in Canada 46%.
Of 6,360 Lebanese with French citizenship, 71.5 % voted for Sarkozy, an indication that just as Israelis view him as pro-Israeli, French Lebanese seem to view him as pro-Lebanese.
In Syria, some 69% of the 800 absentee ballots went to Sarkozy's challenger, Segolene Royal. One diplomatic official in Jerusalem said Monday that Syrian President Bashar Assad was obviously relieved that French President Jacques Chirac was leaving office, though he would likely have preferred the more inexperienced Royal to Sarkozy.
Following the assassination of Chirac's friend and former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, the official said, France's attitude toward Syria became completely colored by Chirac's personal distaste for Assad.
"Chirac was determined to isolate Assad," the official said. "Sarkozy will also be tough toward Assad and his policy will be coordinated with the US, but it will not be as personal as it was with Chirac."
"Today is less bad a day then it was yesterday for Assad in regards to France," the official added.
Regarding Franco-Israeli relations, the official said that while Sarkozy was friendly to Israel, "it's not as if the Lubavitcher Rebbe was just elected. Sarkozy is a friend, but he did not just become the mayor of Jerusalem. He needs to think of all the French, and there are objective French interests throughout the Arab world."
Nevertheless, the official said there would likely be a change in the relationship.
"The tone now is likely to be warmer and more friendly, even when there are disagreements," he said. "We are unlikely to see the coldness and the enmity that we saw during Chirac's tenure... until the point when Chirac developed a chemistry with [prime minister] Ariel Sharon."
Vice Premier Shimon Peres also phoned Sarkozy to congratulate him Monday, and told him his victory held out "promise for France, a constructive feeling for the world and hope for the Middle East and all of us."
Peres praised Sarkozy for calling, during his acceptance speech Sunday evening, for the construction of a "Mediterranean Union that will link Europe and Africa. What was done for Europe 60 years ago, we will do today for a Mediterranean Union."
Peres told Sarkozy this idea was "fascinating."