Emmanuel Macron

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“We are friends of the State of Israel and partners for Israel’s security. We will always be in this camp. At the same time, from the beginning, France has always worked for the recognition of two states.”

“The policy of Netanyahu (on settlements) is unhelpful. It does not help to pacify the region or to stabilize the conflict. The nature of his policies does not increase collective security.’’

"Any use of chemical weapons (in Syria) would result in reprisals and an immediate riposte, at least where France is concerned."

“We won’t solve the (Syrian) question only with military force. That is a collective error we have made. The real change I’ve made on this question, is that I haven’t said the deposing of Bashar al-Assad is a prerequisite for everything. Because no one has introduced me to his legitimate successor! My line is clear: one, a total fight against terrorist groups. They are our enemies .... We need the cooperation of everyone to eradicate them, particularly Russia. Two: stability in Syria, because I don’t want a failed state.”

The French President

The French Presidency is easily the most powerful executive position in the democratic world. You might hear the word President and assume that the standards of the United States are followed by every other democratic country. However, the term President varies in power drastically from country to country. In some countries, Israel for example, the Presidency has almost no powers. It is a symbolic position that serves to unify the government. However, in other countries, the position of President has been strengthened to expedite the process of government. Whereas the United States uses a system of check and balances, some countries, such as France, have vested much more power into their executive. Unlike the U.S. system, the French President has much more leeway in determining the composition of the legislative branch of government. The French President appoints the Prime Minister, the equivalent of the speaker of the house. Furthermore, she appoints 9 of the 13 members of the French constitutional council. This can be likened to each American President being able to appoint the majority of the Justices to the Supreme Court. Like the American Presidency, the French President is charged with conducting the foreign affairs of state. The President of France has the powers to sign treaties, and enforce those treaties already agreed to. The French President also has control over war and peace. He may, with ratification of the French legislature, declare war. In addition, he may also exercise limited military actions “for the preservation of French interests." Unlike the President of the United States, the French President may disband Parliament and call for new elections. This would be akin to the U.S. President disbanding Congress. Lastly, the term of a French President is seven years long. That is almost twice as long as a U.S. President. Furthermore, the French President is allowed to run for a second term, stretching her potential tenure to fourteen years. The powers of the French Presidency do have drawbacks. A President is generally in office long enough to see the results of many of his initiatives. This means that he will be held responsible in the next election for the failures and successes of his policies. This is unlike the U.S. Presidency in which many Presidents will not see the outcome of policies they enact in their first term. The French President is also more responsible for the effectiveness of her government. Because of her strong powers and ability to control the composition of government, she has a limited ability to blame others for her failure. While the American President can blame the other party for stalling many of his proposals, the French President has no such luxury. President Trump can blame the Supreme Court if he cannot fully implement his travel ban. However, for the President of France, who appoints her equivalent of the Supreme Court, there is no one left to blame. A failure of the French President to achieve her goal in either situation would indicate an extreme failure to lead.

No position in the democratic world has as much power and responsibility as that of the French Presidency. This means that the French President must act in a measured manner. He must consider his nation's interests and the possible threats that face him. For each action he takes, he must consider how it could negatively impact him and his Presidency. France and Israel have had a checkered past. Before the 1967 war, Israel and France enjoyed a period of close alliance and friendship. However, the 1967 war placed France into a difficult position. France has deep ties to the Middle East. Its long time colonization of Lebanon and Algeria created permanent bonds and rifts with the region. The 1967 war forced France to choose between mending fences with the Arabs or supporting Israel. Angered at Israel for launching a pre-emptive attack and placing it in such a position, France sided with the Arabs. This began a long period of chilly French-Israeli relations. However, with the presidencies of Sarkozy and Hollande, Franco-Israeli relations became much more amenable. France supports a two state solution and is a guarantor of Israeli security. It also is heavily engaged in trade with Israel. However, this close relationship does not approach what it once was, or what Israel and the U.S. enjoy.

France has been dismayed by the failed (or half-hearted, according to some) attempts of Israel to move the peace process forward. Unlike in the U.S., the French populace is much more critical of Israel. This allows the French Presidency a much greater degree of flexibility in the tone it adopts towards Israel. French Presidents speak their minds with Israeli politicians. They do not fear political repercussions at home as much as a U.S. President would. An excellent example of this is former President Sarkozy's view of Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Sarkozy viewed Lieberman as a man uninterested in peace, someone who was merely getting in the way, and he told Benjamin Netanyahu exactly that. Without a large Pro-Israel block at home, there is nothing to stop a French politician from being reasonably blunt. It is unlikely that such a statement by Sarkozy was meant to go public, but it shows that criticizing the Israeli politicians who jeopardize the peace process is something they view as acceptable.

Unlike the United States, the French have agreed to certain tenets of the European Union foreign policy plan. These are targets and policies that European Governments collectively agree to pursue. By agreeing to work towards the same goal, they increase their own political strength by allying with the political strength of their allies. Think of it in terms of leverage. France is the 11th largest trading partner of Israel, however, the EU is Israel's largest trading partner. By working with the EU, France is able to influence Israel much more. The only drawback is that all EU countries must agree on a particular point before the EU can take it up. This means that there are certain points and policies where the EU and France may disagree. On these points France has a weaker bargaining position. Its leverage is greatly diminished, though still very strong. The trick for you to remember is that the EU is France’s ally. Work with them whenever possible. Think of it as bringing the entirety of Europe with you. EU consent effectively increases French Power ten-fold.

The French President should attempt to work with EU representatives whenever possible. While trade agreements and unilateral actions, such as state visits, are the domain of the individual nation, reinforcing French statements with EU support is a wise choice. Think of it this way--as the President you would like to see Israel freeze settlement construction. You ask the EU what they think, and it turns out that this is one of the areas in which you agree. So, you issue a press release calling for Israel to stop construction of settlements. The EU immediately supports your statement with pledges of support and its own public statements. This demonstrates to Israel that there are more people interested in a cessation of settlements than just France.

Emmanuel Macron

You are Mr. Emmanuel Macron, the President of the Fifth French Republic. In May of 2017 you pulled off perhaps the greatest political miracle in France’s long history, becoming both France’s youngest president (at age 39) and doing so at the head of a brand-new party, successfully challenging the established parties and, quite literally, shocking the world.

Born in the city of Amiens in September of 1977, you major in philosophy as an undergraduate, and you later earned a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from France’s famous Paris Institute of Political Studies. After your graduation you worked in the French Ministry of Finance for a few years, followed by a stint in the private sector as an investment banker. Although you joined the Socialist Party in 2006, you didn’t fully commit to politics until 2012 when you were named by then-president Francois Hollande as Deputy Secretary General of the Elysee Palace, the French equivalent of the White House. Two years later you were appointed to Prime Minister Manuel Valls’ cabinet, serving as Minister of the Economy, a position you held for approximately two years.

As those two years unfolded, however, the popularity of French President Francois Hollande sunk to historic lows, and it was likely the case that you began to see possibilities for political advancement. You had always been ambitious and purposeful, and seeing the political disarray in the Socialist Party seemed to hasten your decision to leave the party and officially become a political independent in August 2015. Even though you are politically liberal in general, you were also much more pro-business than most Socialists, and this surely contributed to your decision as well, fitting with your vision of a powerful centrist political movement that strongly supported the European Union. Hollande continued to hold you in high regard, though, and you held on to your cabinet position even when, in April 2017, you announced the formation of a new party, “La Republique En Marche!” (The republic moving forward). Hollande was sharply critical of your action, but you were kept in your cabinet position until you chose to resign in the fall when you declared your candidacy for president.

The miracle? Not only did Hollande’s popularity sink so low that he declared he would not run for a second term, but the Socialist Party itself ceased to be a factor in the presidential race. The clear favorite in the race, Francois Fillon of the conservative Republican Party (France’s other major party) shockingly found his candidacy undermined by the disclosure that he had put his wife on the governmental payroll in a bogus job. These events contributed significantly to your dramatic rise in the polls, and you first won the initial round of the presidential elections and, in the final round, you trounced ultra-conservative Marine Le Pen to win the presidency. Your party organized itself with astonishing speed, and you won the French parliamentary elections the following month by a similarly large margin, putting you in an extraordinary place of power.

What will you do with this power, particularly where Middle Eastern policies are concerned? To start with, though you regard Russian President Vladimir Putin with suspicion, you have concluded that, owing to Putin’s support and that of Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia, President Assad has held on to power in Syria, and you have moved away from France’s previous policy that Assad had to be removed from power before any Syrian peace negotiations could be held. This move creates an opportunity for you to distance France from the Americans, whose policies under Donald Trump look far less predictable than those of Russia. You share with Russia (and the US) an interest in combatting terrorism, and you hope that France can help to negotiate an end to the Syrian Civil War, which will aid in that fight, reduce tensions with Russia, and potentially put France in a more influential and independent position in Syria and the region.

Within a month of your election you hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in France, openly acknowledging France’s shame over the so-called “Vichy” government that led France during World War II, collaborating with the brutal Nazi regime. You further stated that anti-Zionist and anti-Israel expressions should be opposed, calling both "new type(s) of anti-Semitism,” a strong and public acknowledgement of anti-Semitic violence in France as well as abroad. You also called for “a resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in the framework of the search for a solution of two states, Israel and Palestine, living in recognized, secure borders with Jerusalem as the capital.”

More generally, you find yourself in a challenging and quite interesting position. The American President, Donald Trump, openly supported your opponent, and soon after your election pulled the US out of the Kyoto climate change agreement, to your great dismay. Not losing a beat, though, you invited American climate change scientists to come to France while also declaring that you would seek to persuade Trump to change his mind. Although your Middle East policies seem to be moving closer to those of Russia, with President Putin at your side you accused Russian state media of meddling in the French election, and plainly stated that Russia had attempted to interfere in French elections in similar ways to what had been done in the US. In short, you seem to be a gutsy, strong-willed leader who is not afraid of ruffling some feathers. You are also looking to stabilize French relations with Great Britain in the way of the “Brexit” vote, which you view as disastrous. In short, you have quickly become a major figure on the world stage, and a strong advocate for European unity. You are in a position to significantly improve both your stature and that of France….how will you seize the moment?

Goals & Concerns in the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

It is important to understand that France is not a newcomer to the Middle East and its people. Unlike the U.S., France has been deeply involved in the Middle East for its entire history. Because of the ease of conducting trade over waterways, France, for a much of its early history, traded more with the Philistines than it did with the Germans. France has both ruled over Middle Eastern lands and been ruled by them. For this reason, the French view of the Middle East and its people is much more nuanced then that of many nations. Since we are concerned here with recent history more than any other period, let’s focus on the last century. After World War I, France took control of many Middle Eastern territories. Of these, Algeria and Lebanon are the most notable. Algeria was a very close French colony. There were even thoughts of making Algeria part of France. However, the French held native Algerians as second-class citizens. Slowly, this built up a feeling of discontent in Algeria, which eventually lead to a brutal civil war. In the 1960s, French power began to wane. In 1962, the French war with Algeria finally ended with the French being expelled. The end of the Algerian war was the finale in a long story of French failure in the region. In 1956, the Suez Canal was nationalized by Egypt. The French, in an effort to maintain control, attacked Egypt. However, they were repulsed and then forced to relinquish their attack by outside pressures. These two conflicts tarnished the French reputation in the region. The French were seen as oppressors, and instead of respecting the will of the subject people, they ill-advisedly resorted to military force.

However, unlike the U.S., France is on the doorstep of the Middle East. After the Algerian war, France realized that it was necessary to reconcile with the Middle East. France relies on the Middle East for trade and resources, and it also relies on the Middle East for security. What happens in Europe has a direct effect on the Middle East and the same is true in reverse. So, France launched a campaign of creating positive relationships with its Arab neighbors.

At the same time that this was going on, France was building up its relationship with Israel. While there have always been disagreements between Israel and France on Israel's borders and how it conducts itself with the Palestinian people, France has always been supportive of Israel in a general sense. The trade relations between France and Israel grew and prospered. The French President Charles De Gaulle frequently referred to Israel as a friend and ally in the region, and this friendly relationship was bolstered by the fact that there was quite a large number of French Jews. However, in 1967, the relationship between France and Israel changed drastically. While many see the 1967 war between Israel and Arab nations as a necessary pre-emptive attack, just as many see it as a cunning surprise attack. This is a place where rational people may disagree. However, what is indisputable is that the Israeli attack placed France in an untenable position. On one hand, France's friend, Israel, attacked hostile Arab nations around her. On the other hand, the very countries that France was trying to build ties of friendship with came under an unprovoked attack at the hands of France's ally. As one can see, there are multiple ways to frame the 1967 war, so to say France could just choose to side with whoever was "Right" is all but impossible. Seeing this, France took the most practical choice, siding with those who had been attacked. While the Arab nations made provocative statements and movements towards Israel, nothing they did was an actual act of war. Furthermore, the benefits of siding with the Arabs outweighed those of siding with the Israelis. The Israelis, not the Arabs, had placed France in this horrible position. Israel acted without regard to the well being of its allies, and attacked. France was unwilling to be drawn into the conflict by such reckless actions so it sided with the Arabs.

The fallout of this action lasts until today. French politicians are skeptical of Israeli intentions. However, in recent years, the relationship between Israel and France has improved. Under the Sarkozy and Hollande administrations, the Prime Minister of Israel was hosted in France numerous times. Both men also made state visits to Israel. Furthermore, French-Israeli trade expanded significantly. This is attributable to several important reasons--one being the Israeli economy. Israel has become a very strong player in the Mediterranean market. France is keenly interested in getting access to Israeli markets. Israel is also a key political player in the Middle East. By giving Israel the cold shoulder, France lost significant influence within Israel. Israeli trade with France came in at over 2.6 billion Euros in 2015. Not a small figure for the French economy.

Still, Israel is not fully trusted. Remember that France has an interest in maintaining positive relations with all Middle Eastern countries. In the past, Israel threw away its relationship with France for a momentary advantage. President Sarkozy openly stated that he did not trust Netanyahu, and there were good reasons for this, chief among them being the fact that Netanyahu's government has frequently avoided the implementation of treaties regarding the Palestinians.

France also maintains a complex relationship with the Palestinians and other Arab nations. France provides one of the most generous amounts of foreign aid to the Palestinians. It is committed to seeing a Palestinian state develop in the West Bank. Remember, support for the Palestinians is integral to French foreign policy. France is still trying to improve its image in the Middle East. The French atrocities in the Algerian war were not forgotten. By supporting the Palestinian people, France can help mend those past scars. The French are also greatly concerned with humanitarian issues. They see the Israeli treatment of Palestinians as unjust. France views the Israeli blockades of Gaza and the treatment of Palestinians through the creation of the separation barrier as inhumane. For these reasons, France is committed to providing aid to the Palestinian people. France also differs from the United States in its view of Hezbollah. France recognizes that Hezbollah is comprised of numerous entities, and that in recent years it has undergone a transformation. France does not view Hezbollah as a terrorist entity. Furthermore, France has actively prevented the placement of Hezbollah on the EU terrorist list. This does not mean that France will defend acts of violence. However, so long as Hezbollah remains peaceful, France seems unwilling to censure it. This clearly aggravates Israel, which has recently been in armed conflict with Hezbollah. When viewing this conflict, one must remember that France once ruled over Lebanon. To throw Hezbollah under the bus simply to improve relations with Israel would not serve France's best interests. France has broad interests in the Middle East, and it cannot sacrifice one interest to further another.



France is committed to a successful resolution of the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis. For this reason, France calls for the creation of a Palestinian state inside the 1967 green line. France calls for an immediate halt to all Israeli construction that violates the Oslo I and II accords. This includes all construction inside East Jerusalem. France recognizes Jerusalem as the capitol of both Israel and of the future Palestinian state. France universally condemns the use of violence by both Israel and Palestine. France condemns the use of barriers to impede the transit of Palestinians inside their own borders. France urges both parties to return to the negotiating table and to resolve the current conflict. France is dedicated to the existence of Israel and is committed to the defense of Israel.

Middle East in General

France recognizes that it has trade interests in all Middle Eastern countries. For this reason, France will attempt to be a voice of reason in the region. It is not in France's interest to sacrifice one parties’ interest in order to appease another. For this reason, France will not deny the right of Israel to exist to appease some Arab parties, nor will it condemn Hezbollah as a terrorist entity to appease Israel. France will do all that it can to better its image in the Middle East and to create lasting relationships with Middle Eastern nations. France will not tolerate the violation of human rights by any parties.


France is committed to ending the violence in Syria. France no longer takes the stance that Syrian President Assad must be removed from power before a potential settlement can be negotiated, and this movement parallels that of the United States, and recognizes that, with Russian and Iranian support, President Assad has maintained a hold on power, even though a future Syria will likely be divided.

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