Arno Klarsfeld, the son of renowned Nazi-hunters Serge and Beate Klarsfeld, is rumored to be the top candidate to become minister of immigration and national identity when French President-elect Nicholas Sarkozy chooses his cabinet in the coming weeks. Arno Klarsfeld, a 41-year-old lawyer, undertook several missions for Sarkozy when he was interior minister, dealing with France's illegal immigration problem. Born in France, Klarsfeld aligned himself with Sarkozy and the Right after he fell out of favor with French leftists when he acquired Israeli citizenship in 2002 and joined the Border Police. He served at checkpoints around Bethlehem. When he worked for Sarkozy, Klarsfeld prepared reports on the deportation of illegal immigrants and helped negotiate a deal to end protests by homeless campaigners.
Sarkozy gets nearly 90% of Israeli votes
Klarsfeld has also undertaken several human rights cases, campaigning to create international criminal courts on the genocides in Kosovo and Rwanda. He has championed Jewish causes, representing the Association for the Sons and Daughters of the Deported Jews of France, who sought damages in their case against French Nazi collaborator Maurice Papon, who died in February.
Because Klarsfeld has served as a mediator for Sarkozy and is familiar with the region, some believe he could serve as a special envoy for Sarkozy.
But officials from Sarkozy's party, the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP), told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday no final decisions had been made on ministerial appointments. They said they had not heard speculation about Klarsfeld's appointment, as was first suggested by Le Figaro, also on Tuesday.
According to one UMP official, although it is just conjecture at this point, anything is possible. "He is charismatic and well-liked, but you have to see if he is the best suited for the job," the official told the Post.
As for Klarsfeld serving as a special envoy to the Middle East, the official said Klarsfeld's IDF service could present a problem for hard-liners and moderates in Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority.
"Around 70 percent of Lebanese Frenchmen voted for Sarkozy, so they also have a lot of expectations of him," the official said. "When you're talking about Hizbullah, for example, they would have to recognize that someone like Klarsfeld is first a French citizen, not Israeli. They must recognize him officially, not personally."
Klarsfeld has been outspoken in the past on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and has said Palestinians were responsible for some of the casualties of the Holocaust.
In an article he wrote in Le Monde in 2001, he said: "If the persecuted Jews of Germany, Poland, Hungary and Romania had been permitted to immigrate to Palestine... it is certain that the number of Jews exterminated would have been far less."
Klarsfeld has also been outspoken on Palestinian statehood, something he believes should become a reality, but that Israelis and Palestinians should not be forbidden to live in each other's territory.
"It is said that Jewish policies in the occupied territories are an obstacle for peace. Maybe," he said. "But we can also turn the question around and ask, Why can't Jews live in the West Bank and Gaza while one million Arabs live in Israel?"
According to reports coming out of Paris, others being considered to sit on Sarkozy's cabinet are outgoing Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie and Alain Juppe, a former prime minister and foreign minister. Both are seen as front-runners for the position of foreign minister, though some suggest Juppe would rather be president of the National Assembly.
"The Israeli's won't be happy, especially with Juppe," the UMP official said. "Juppe is seen as very pro-Palestinian and has made statements regarding Jerusalem that Israelis don't like. He has said that Jerusalem is disputed territory and does not belong to Israel, and he believes what he says."
Alliot-Marie has also evoked criticism over statements on the region, with her condemnation of Israeli flyovers in Lebanon, which the IDF said were efforts to deter Hizbullah from rearming in violation of the UN brokered cease-fire.
"I think she learned her lessons about being too outspoken, especially over matters in the Middle East," the official said. "All statements regarding Israel must be carefully articulated and she spoke without thinking and without proper information."