Sunday, July 13, 2008

Entente cordiale

Pres. Sarkozy of France has found a new area of influence. He has brought together 44 heads of state representing all the countries surrounding the Mediterannean Sea in Paris in his "Union of the Mediterranean." There are actually only 20 countries surrounding the Med (Spain, France, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Albania, Montenegro, Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Libya (that did not attend), Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco), but all the EU countries were also invited as well. The Med is an area that neither the US, the UK nor even the Russians can claim as their own, so Sarkozy has found a region that is both large and ripe for French influence.
The Med littoral includes countries of Europe, North Africa, the Levant and Asia Minor. Thus, Sarkozy can legitimately claim this to be a major, yet heterogeneous, conglomeration of countries. Of those attending, there are many Arab states, and it will be the first time that Israel will sit down in a hall with some of them, even though some walked out before FM Livni gave her speech, nevertheless others stayed.
The big news has been that Pres. Assad of Syria is attending. It seems that after assassinating former PM Hariri of Lebanon, as well as several other leaders, all is now forgiven. France has re-established ties with Syria and Assad was welcomed with a specially strong handshake by Sarkozy, grateful that Assad agreed to accept his invitation and grace the Elysee Palace.
Now that Lebanon has a new President, it was good for Sarkozy that Assad and Suleiman met and shook hands, and that had Sarkozy all aquiver. Finally, when Abbas and Olmert arrived simultaneously in adjacent cars, and shook hands with Sarkozy, he was almost in ecstasy. Olmert duly stated that Israel and the Palestinians have never been closer to an agreement, and that had Sarkozy gushing about "love rather than hate." He quoted to the Arabs the European Union as an example of what can happen if they gave up their hateful ways. But, it will take more than a little talking to, to curb the tendency towards violence in even the most "moderate" and pro-Western Arab countries, like Egypt and Morocco.
However, Sarkozy will not get the handshake that he so earnestly desires, that between Assad and Olmert. Assad will not give this political concession at so cheap a price. Israel will have to give up all the Golan Heights before he would deign to shake hands with the Israeli PM. And he will wait for three things to happen, first the US Presidential election (his chosen candidate is Obama), then the replacement of Olmert, since he knows that no agreement arrived at with Olmert will be approved by the Knesset, and third, the outcome of the sabre rattling between Iran and Israel and the US. If Iran is indeed either brought low by sanctions or by a military attack, then Assad will know that it is time to deal. Until then he will merely smile and enjoy being courted in the French style.


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