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Overview: France’s President Visits Israel

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Overview: France’s President Visits Israel

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy, along with his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, visited Israel and the Palestinian territories earlier this week. His visit appeared to project support for U.S. President George W. Bush’s peace plan, while also pushing European interests.

“There can be no peace without stopping settlement,” Mr. Sarkozy told the Israeli parliament, later adding, “There can be no peace if Palestinians themselves do not combat terrorism” (AFP).

The president stressed that the French government was strongly committed to Israel’s defense. “France will always be by Israel’s side when its security, its existence are threatened,” he said, stating that Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons was “unacceptable.”

Mr. Sarkozy said that lasting peace required the creation of a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel, with both sharing Jerusalem as their capital. Upon landing in Tel Aviv, the French president said, “An agreement is possible, tomorrow, and that agreement would allow the two peoples to live side-by-side in peace and security. I am more convinced than ever that the security of Israel will only be truly guaranteed with the birth of a second state, a Palestinian state” (BBC News).

According to Voice of America, he further said that Jerusalem is a “holy city” for all Jews, Christians and Muslims, and that it could not be held solely by one side or the other. This is in contrast to the United States’ long-held position, including that of presidential candidate Barack Obama, who recently stated that Jerusalem should not be divided.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas welcomed Mr. Sarkozy’s speech. “The positions expressed by President Sarkozy reflect the French support for the Palestinian cause in seeking to reach a peaceful settlement in the region,” his spokesman stated (AFP).

Mr. Sarkozy’s visit, the first to Israel in almost 12 years, coincided with the nation’s 60th anniversary. It was only the second trip by a French head of state to address the Israeli parliament, after Francois Mitterrand in 1982.

The visit and statements come at a troubled time for the region, with cease-fires straining as rockets are launched into Israel, threatening a “strong response” from the Israeli military. Meantime, Israeli relations with Syria, and primarily Iran, are bordering on war.

John Bolton, former U.S. representative to the United Nations, told the Telegraph that Israel would attack Iran sometime after the U.S. presidential election, but before the new president’s inauguration.

In a strange twist, Mr. and Mrs. Sarkozy’s departure was marked by gunfire from a possible suicide of an Israeli border police officer. Speculation ran rampant about whether it was an assassination attempt, but officials referred to it as an “accident.”

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