Armed French soldiers stand in front of a Synagogue during a visit of French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve after an attack in front of a Jewish school in Marseille's 9th district, France, January 14, 2016..
(photo credit: REUTERS/JEAN-PAUL PELISSIER)
PARIS – The nomination of French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve as the country’s new prime minister surprised no one. As far as President Francois Hollande is concerned, Cazeneuve has the perfect profile for this short-term job, until the presidential elections at the end of April 2017.
Cazeneuve has always been loyal to the president.
He is considered a serious, prudent and calm person, with long experience in state affairs. Even his right-wing rivals admit as much. As a former interior minister, budget minister, under-secretary for European affairs and mayor of Cherbourg, he will plunge into current affairs fairly quickly.
This is what Hollande is hoping for – a man who will keep the governmental machine working, without any scandals, until the end of the president’s term and the probable end of his political career.
The French Jewish community is divided over Cazeneuve due to his position toward Israel – an issue he rarely treated directly.
As minister of the interior, the community institutions worked hand in hand with Cazeneuve to reinforce the protection of synagogues, Jewish schools etc.
The battle against extreme Islamism has dominated Cazeneuve’s agenda as minister.
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He had to cope with the Charlie Hebdo attack, the Hyper Cacher attack, the November 13 attacks and more. The vehicular attack at the Nice seaside promenade last July 14 provoked much criticism over the apparent lack of security measures there and calls for him to resign.
The Jewish community has expressed its gratitude on several occasions for Cazeneuve relentless efforts against the threat of terrorism.
Still, Cazeneuve is not Manuel Valls. The Jewish community regrets the resignation of the prime minister and does not expect Cazeneuve to deliver any pro-Israel speeches such as Valls did last year at the Israel Embassy’s Independence Day celebration, when he categorically attacked any anti-Israel boycott attempts.
This is not Cazeneuve’s style.
In August 2014, during Operation Protective Edge, Cazeneuve explained to the media that he refused five pro-Palestinian (anti-Gaza war) demonstration requests, out of almost 500 anti-Israel demonstrations which did take place across France. He explained that the requests were rejected in order to prevent any antisemitic acts and preserve public order.
But Cazeneuve said another thing – he added that, “on the issue itself, it is clear that the demonstrators rally for a just cause. The Palestinians have the right to demand their own state, to demand that the war in Gaza stops and that children will not be killed.’’ He also said that he himself had demonstrated in the past for those causes.
On the other hand, Cazeneuve expressed himself firmly against the UNESCO vote denying Jewish ties to Jerusalem and Temple Mount, saying he agrees with every word written by France’s Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia condemning the resolution.
Cazeneuve is considered a Fabuis-line partisan. Political analysts here agree that on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Cazeneuve holds the “traditional French” approach of backing the Palestinian right to self-determination and a state, and supporting the two-state solution.
Nevertheless, with just five months to go, and so many files on his table, this issue will not be a priority.
Any developments on this front will depend on how Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault advances the French initiative. Hollande is still the president, and he will be the one setting the foreign affairs’ guidelines until the very end.
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