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Sarkozy sends warm greetings to Peres and Israel
By HERB KEINON
26/04/2012
Days before final round of presidential elections, French president pledges to wage "all-out war against anti-Semitism."
 
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 Day.

“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 said.

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 security.

“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.

There are about a half million Jews in France, making up some 0.6% of the electorate.

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 outlets grow.”

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.

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