Ten days before the second and final round of the French presidential elections,
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, fighting for his political life, sent a very
warm letter to President Shimon Peres Thursday for Independence
“Following the tragedy in Toulouse that brutally hit both our
countries, I want to ensure you that the French authorities are determined to
wage an all-out war against anti-Semitism,” Sarkozy said of the March 19 attack
in which a terrorist killed a rabbi and three children.
“That has always
been my position, and it is well known to you,” the French president
Sarkozy said that at a time when there are major upheavals in the
Middle East and “despotic regimes and those drenched with hatred constantly
threaten your country,” he wanted to assure Peres of his commitment to Israel’s
“I still believe, now more than ever, that negotiations are
always the preferred path so Israel can live in peace and security in the
regions surrounding it,” he wrote.
In this context, Sarkozy said, France
and the whole international community attached a great deal of importance to the
Israeli-Palestinian peace process. A two-state solution would “be the best
long-term guarantor of Israel’s security,” he said.
Sarkozy said he was
pleased at the “constant strengthening of ties between our countries in many and
varied areas,” and that this was proof of the “strength of our relationship and
the friendship between our peoples.”
Sarkozy lost the first round of the
elections on Sunday by 1.4 percent to the Socialist Party candidate François
Hollande, who the polls predict will win the second round as well.
are about a half million Jews in France, making up some 0.6% of the
While French pollsters are not allowed to ask about religious
affiliation in election surveys, the first round election results in Tel Aviv,
where 9,302 people cast votes, showed Sarkozy was the runaway favorite. He won
81% of the vote, with only 8% going to Hollande.
While Jews supported
Sarkozy heavily in 2007, a study of Jewish voters by the French Center for
Political Research (Cevipof) showed that over the past two years, his approval
rating has dropped 19 percentage points among Jews – from 62% in 2007-09 to 43%
in 2009-11. Among non-Jews, Sarkozy’s popularity fell by 14 percentage points,
to 32% in January.
Before Sunday’s voting, Philippe Karsenty, a Jewish-
French politician and media analyst, said, “There isn’t a single candidate the
Jews can wholly welcome. Sarkozy has some responsibility for what happened in
Toulouse because he let the anti-Zionist propaganda of the French public media
Sarkozy has disappointed the French Jewish community in
other ways, too: the French vote in favor of Palestinian membership in UNESCO,
condemnations of Israeli settlements and when he called Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu a “liar.”
JTA contributed to this report.