French songwriter Hervé Vilard became famous overnight in 1965 with his love song “Capri, c’est fini” (Capri, it’s over). The song literally sounds like a broken record, but Vilard made a fortune out of it (he sold 2.5 million records). Could it be that disappointment is so universal a feeling that it speaks to our hearts even with the dullest melody? And would I get 2.5 million downloads on I-tunes if I were to write a song on “Sarkozy, c’est fini?” After all, there are more than 2.5 million people who are disappointed in Sarkozy. I’m no musician, though, so I shall settle for the following words.
Since “making aliyah” (immigrating, ascendency-wise) to Israel eighteen years ago, I forwent my right to vote in French elections. I no longer share the destiny of France, a country I voluntarily left. In 2007, however, I made an exception. Nicolas Sarkozy impressed me, and I made a special trip (twice) to the French consulate to give the guy my vote. Sarkozy was an outsider. The son of a Hungarian immigrant, he was raised by a Jewish grandfather and grew-up as the ugly duckling in Paris’ posh Neuilly suburb. As opposed to the rest of France’s political leadership, he was not intellectually cloned by ENA, the French elite school for government. But, mostly, he sounded sincere when he said that he intended to replace French economic dirigisme with pro-market policies, and when he spoke fondly of Israel and of America. Indeed, it seemed too good to be true –and it was.
Sarkozy turned out to be a temperamental control-freak whose economic reforms are meager and whose foreign policy record is disastrous. His “Mediterranean Union” project was a flop. Besides angering his European partners (especially Germany) for not consulting with them on his half-cooked ideas (yet expecting them to share the cost of their implementation), Sarkozy made a fool of himself. In July 2008, he threw a grand party in Paris to launch his now defunct “Mediterranean Union” with embarrassing guests such as Hosni Mubarak and Bashar Assad. Sarkozy thought that his “Mediterranean Union” would convince Turkey to give-up its EU bid, while Erdogan had already made the choice of a pan-Islamic foreign policy.
Worse, Sarkozy went out of his way to rehabilitate Muammar Kaddafi in order to sell French nuclear plants and military aircrafts to Libya. Shortly after his election, Sarkozy hosted Kaddafi in Paris and then went to Tripoli to celebrate “a strategic partnership” between France and Libya. While candidate Sarkozy gave fine speeches on France’s international role to promote human rights, President Sarkozy did business with Kaddafi (“I’m about to sign multi-billion contracts with Libya,” Sarkozy proudly declared to the French media). Except that Sarkozy underestimated the risks of doing business with an airplane blower. Kaddafi pocketed Sarkozy’s “rehabilitation certificate” but failed to deliver. Aside from being furious at Kaddafi, Sarkozy was embarrassed by the Arab revolts which revealed his government’s cozy relations with Arab dictators. He subsequently and opportunistically decided to rebrand himself as Zorro, now bombarding Kaddafi with the planes he wanted to sell him.
Sarkozy unsuccessfully tried to play the tough peace-maker vis-à-vis Russian President Medvedev when the latter bombarded South Ossetia in the summer of 2008. It is not done to try and preserve your bygone empire by using military force against independence-minded leaders, Sarkozy explained to Medvedev. Yet Sarkozy himself did just that in the former French colony of Côte d’Ivoire, where the French army toppled Laurent Gbagbo, the outvoted President who had been instrumental in undoing France’s neo-colonialism in his country.
Sarkozy’s hot-headedness and duplicity are by now music to Israel’s ears. Sarkozy has Jewish origins, and he started his political career as Mayor of Neuilly –an affluent Paris suburb with a powerful Jewish community. As Interior Minister under President Chirac, he acted firmly against anti-Semitism. His speeches were full of praise for Israel. He became friendly with Benjamin Netanyahu. His address to the Knesset in June 2007 was as good as it could get (except, that is, for the line on dividing Jerusalem).
Today, Sarkozy’s attitude toward Israel is undistinguishable from that of his predecessors: he is obnoxious and confrontational, and France’s “Arab policy” is back in full gear. In 2009, Sarkozy granted the Légion d’Honneur (France’s equivalent of the Presidential Medal of Freedom) to Charles Enderlin, the French journalist who falsely accused Israel of killing Muhamad Al-Dura, thus igniting the second Intifada as well as “revengeful” acts such as the beheading of Daniel Pearl. Sarkozy blames Netanyahu and absolves Abbas for the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate, despite Netanyahu’s gestures and despite Abbas’ refusal to negotiate. He encouraged Abbas’ statehood bid at the UN and recently voted in favor of UNESCO’s admission of “Palestine” as a full member state. He has reportedly declared that Israel’s demand to be recognized as a Jewish state by the Palestinians is “ridiculous.” In a private conversation with President Obama a couple of days ago, Sarkozy badmouthed Israel’s Prime Minister calling him a “liar” and saying he couldn’t stand him.
Sarkozy’s speech at the UN General Assembly in September 2011 was no less than idiotic. He blamed the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate on a “method problem” and yet he suggested to try again that very method in order to solve the conflict: negotiate the final status of Jerusalem, borders and settlement within a pre-set timetable. This is precisely what the Oslo process, the Road Map and the Annapolis conference unsuccessfully tried to achieve.
Most French Jews and most dual French-Israeli citizens voted for Sarkozy in 2007. Sarkozy mistakenly calculates that he can still count on their votes despite his antics, because the alternative is allegedly worse. He is mistaken. In the Socialist Party’s primaries, the rabid anti-Israel Martine Aubry was defeated by the moderate and conciliatory François Hollande. On the far-right, Marine Le Pen is at pains to prove her pro-Israel credentials and to distance herself from her anti-everything (including anti-Semitic) father.
Sarkozy has lost the Jewish vote and his likely defeat in the upcoming French elections will be well deserved. Sarkozy, c’est fini.