Monday, June 22, 2009

Netanyahu and Sarkozy: Personal Chemistry versus Political Disagreements

From BESA Center Perspectives Papers No. 82, June 22, 2009, by Dr Tsilla Hershco, research associate specializing in Franco-Israeli relations:

Executive Summary: Netanyahu and Sarkozy resemble each other in their charismatic leadership, their dynamic capitalist approach and their global view of security threats. Yet, during their scheduled meeting in Paris on June 24, 2009, substantial disagreements might surface on issues such as French demands for the freezing of the settlements in Judea and Samaria and the division of Jerusalem. These demands are fervently opposed by Netanyahu. Concurrently, the French, inter alia, criticize Netanyahu for his firm preconditions that the Palestinians 1) recognize Israel as a Jewish state and 2) demilitarize.

On June 24, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and French President Nicolas Sarkozy are scheduled to meet in Paris for the first time since Israeli elections in February 2009. The two charismatic leaders ...have publicly declared their mutual sentiments of friendship and respect, [and] have much in common.

[including support for]
  • dynamic capitalist approach
  • regional cooperation through common economic projects [as] an effective instrument in promoting peace
  • attachment to democratic liberal values
  • stress the threats to democratic regimes emanating from fanatic terror groups and countries
  • attribute importance to enhancing cooperation among such democratic and moderate regimes in order to contain the ongoing fanatic Islamist assault
  • ascribe tremendous significance to international security issues and especially to the challenges of coping with global terror and proliferation of non-conventional arms
  • regard the relations of their countries with the United States as a top priority in confronting the abovementioned threats.

Yet despite the mutual declarations of friendship between the two heads of states, some significant divergences might surface.

  • [on Iran] Sarkozy believes that only dialogue on one hand and international sanctions on the other can stop the Iranian nuclear project. ...[he] opposes any eventual military option, which in his opinion might endanger the entire world. On the contrary, Netanyahu seems more reserved toward the consequences of dialogue and international sanctions and does not exclude the option of preventive military intervention against Iran.
  • freezing of settlements,
  • lifting of security barriers in Judea and Samaria and the opening of border crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip
  • preconditions for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state as well as his demand for the demilitarization of the future Palestinian state were equally criticized by the French
  • Sarkozy insists that East Jerusalem should become the capital of the Palestinian state.
  • the speaker of the French foreign ministry insisted on French support for UN Resolution 194 (December 1948), which implies the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

In conclusion, it seems that Netanyahu's forthcoming visit to the city of lights will probably expose significant political discrepancies between Israeli and French positions. It is doubtful whether the personal chemistry between the two leaders can bridge the gap in their positions, unless they decide to accent their common objectives, interests and values.

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