Nicolas Sarkozy 298.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
The great majority of French Jews and French-Israeli dual citizens voted for the victor in Sunday's presidential runoff, Nicolas Sarkozy. It is not just the Jewish people, however, who should be encouraged by the results and wishing the president-elect every success, but the citizens of France and of all free nations.
Polls indicate that 70 percent of the French think their nation is on the decline. They chose Sarkozy to address their stagnant economy, crime and growing social tensions.
Outside observers do not expect Sarkozy to lead an economic and social revolution of the magnitude wrought by Ronald Reagan in the US and by Margaret Thatcher in the UK, but they do expect him to push the French economy in this direction. This will not be easy, and it is too soon to tell whether he will be able to overcome the intense opposition such reforms will engender from entrenched interests.
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He may not succeed, but we wish him and France well, because a more prosperous, confident France will be good news for Europe and for the world.
This is particularly so if Sarkozy is successful in shifting France's notion of independence in foreign affairs.
In his victory speech, Sarkozy said, "I want to issue an appeal to our American friends, to tell them that they can count on our friendship, which has been forged in the tragedies of history that we have faced together.
"I want to tell them that France will always be by their side when they need it, but I also want to tell them that friendship means accepting that your friends may think differently and that a great nation such as the United States has a duty not to put obstacles in the way of the fight against global warming... France will make this battle its primary battle."
This statement, though somewhat double-edged, has been taken as confirmation that Sarkozy is pro-American - a label he proudly accepts. He also said that he is as committed to Israel's security as he is to a Palestinian state, and that he was "changed" by a visit to Yad Vashem.
Together, all this could mean a significant shift in French foreign policy. As Binyamin Netanyahu put it, "I don't think one can expect the French policy to change from one end to the other, but it is clear that it will no longer be characterized by reflexive anti-Israelism - a situation in which Israel is guilty until proven innocent...
"This is [also] the first president since World War II who will not be imbued with [Charles] de Gaulle's attitude, which saw the US as a competitor, and this is a very refreshing change."
The notion of the last few decades that France advanced its own interests by almost reflexively opposing the US and siding with the Arab world against Israel has not done well for France or for the world. It was a conceit more than a rational policy. Certainly, in today's world, it has shifted from being merely indulgent to posing real dangers for international security.
Today, the Free World is facing a threat from Islamo-fascist regimes and their terrorist allies that demands solidarity among nations that are under attack. Sarkozy himself has said that an Iranian nuclear weapon is unacceptable, and that sanctions must be tightened.
In declaring victory, Sarkozy said, "I am going to give the place of honor back to the nation and national identity. I am going to give pride in France back to the French people."
France knows better than most nations the price of not standing up to aggressive tyrants in time. If France championed draconian sanctions against Iran, it could almost single-handedly lead Europe in avoiding both the need for Western military action against Teheran, and the threat of living under a growing nuclear and terrorist shadow. There is no better way to restore French leadership and pride.