Jean Yves Le Drian

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You are Jean-Yves Le Drian, French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs.

"We cannot build peace (in Syria) with Assad. The solution is to establish... a timeline for political transition that can lead to a new constitution and elections, and this transition cannot happen with Bashar al-Assad."

“The departure of Bashar al-Assad is essential in order to bring peace to Syria and ensure justice for the hundreds of thousands of men, women and children he has tortured and killed in the worst humanitarian crisis for decades, but it is not a prerequisite for military action against ISIL.”

“The UK and France have always made decisive contributions to international security. Since the second world war, they have dedicated a substantial share of their national wealth to defense, reflecting the fact that they take their responsibilities as permanent members of the United Nations Security Council very seriously.”

The Office of the Foreign Minister

The Foreign Minister of France is the chief diplomatic officer in the French government. The challenges he is faced with are daunting. He is charged with being his nation’s lead negotiator and representative on all foreign policy issues. The Foreign Minister is also regularly granted Charge D'affaires, or the power to sign limited treaties or make limited agreements with foreign powers. As the Foreign Minister, his responsibilities and duties become yours. His most influential role, however, is as an advisor and champion. It is the duty of the Foreign Minister to be the foremost expert in all areas with which he is charged. While the President has the ultimate say, it is the recommendations of his Foreign Minister which will undoubtedly carry a substantial weight in the decision making process. Beyond merely the decision making process, the Foreign Minister is the man who makes things happen. While the President may be the one signing the treaty, the Foreign Minister is the one up to his elbows in details. His duty is to make sure the President is not embarrassed by failed negotiations. For this reason, the Foreign Minister is the head of the diplomatic vanguard. He works diligently behind the scenes laying the groundwork for the furthering of French interests in the region. When there is a policy that the President wants to consider, you will float the idea to see what the populace thinks, and insulate the President from backlash.

The duties of the Foreign Minister are quite massive. He is the expert on the ground, the chief diplomat, an advisor to the President, and a man of superb statecraft. While these duties are impressive and the burden can seem overwhelming, it is essential to remember that he fills a vital role for the French team; he is the man who makes the deals happen. Through the use of private communiqués and correspondence, he advances French goals by swaying other diplomats. He makes clear what France can offer, and what it expects in return. He negotiates with his opposite numbers in other nations, other highly trained diplomats. Unlike some politicians, diplomats tend to be pragmatists. They understand that negotiations are a give and take affair. They recognize, going into a negotiation, that it might not be possible to get everything they want. However, their pragmatic response is to get what they can. The diplomat is judged by what concessions they can get at what cost.

It is into this role that you are thrust. As Foreign Minister, you may find yourself making public statements on behalf of your country. Unlike the President, these acts do not establish a national policy. Rather, they are statements designed to illustrate your country's concerns and why you feel this way. You make such public statements in an attempt to bring others around to your way of thinking. By demonstrating the rationale for your position, you hope others will see your stance as the most logical position. As the Foreign Minister, you will often be making such statements in conjunction with the EU. In almost every aspect, your view of Israel and that of the EU countries, coincide. You should try, where possible, to coordinate your statements with one of the EU representatives. This will add greater impact to the statement, and also demonstrate European unity to those engaged with France. Sometimes, you may feel that it is necessary to go your own way. This is perfectly acceptable, however, without partners to work with, your statements only bear the weight of the nation of France. When working with a partner, such as the EU, your statements reflect the combined interests of numerous countries and have a far greater impact.

There are some constraints that you must consider when you are acting as Foreign Minister. You do not have the authority to make binding agreements with anyone unless you are given Charge D'affaires by the President. This is the power to make agreements in order to resolve a particular problem. Even in these cases some decisions may have to be ratified by the Parliament or may be denied by the President. You are given the power to make minor decisions, such as the funding of some schools or water projects in the West Bank. While it may not seem like these have a large impact, they do. They are chances for France to accomplish good, and improve its image. You should be wary of exceeding the limits of your power, though. Should you succeed you will have done your job and made the President look good. Should you fail, and be acting under your own impetus, you can expect to be thrown under the bus. A President will not take the blame for anything he does not have to accept. The best way to ensure that you do not exceed your limits is to communicate closely with the Prime Minister and the President. The President, through his office, has the power to change French policy and make important decisions on behalf of the nation. The Prime Minister can grab media attention and greatly assist your negotiations by foregrounding a narrative in the media that benefits you. Furthermore, the statements of both of these political actors carry more weight than your own. By ensuring that you and they are projecting the same message you make it clear that you are acting as the representative of France and that the nation is behind you.

Jean-Yves Le Drian

You were born to working-class parents in 1947, in the city of Lorient, which is in France’s Brittany region. You studied history at the University of Rennes, and you taught history at the university level for many years. You joined the Socialist Party as a young man, and in 1977 you were elected as Deputy Mayor of your hometown of Lorient and you also won a seat in the French National Assembly, representing your native Morbihan region. You held this seat for most of the next 30 years, serving briefly in 1991-92 in the cabinet of Prime Minister Edith Cresson as Minister of the Sea (an experience you would build upon years later when you were chosen in 2010 as President of the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe). When your close friend, socialist Francois Hollande was elected President in 2012, his first Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, chose you as his Minister of Defense, a position you would hold throughout Hollande’s five-year term of office.

Your tenure as Minister of Defense was regarded as successful, featuring a robust growth in the sales of French arms and fighter jets, and an active anti-terrorism effort that included French troops being dispatched to Mali in Northwest Africa. These French-led efforts to assist the Malian government to push back Islamist fighters won wide praise, and were ultimately thought to have prevented Mali’s government from falling. These successes contributed to the fact that you retained a positive image in France, even as President Hollande’s popularity ratings sunk so low that he did not even run for re-election. In March 2017 you endorsed Emmanuel Macron, incurring the wrath of Socialist presidential candidate Benoit Hamon in so doing, but you justified your action by stating that people needed to join forces to deny the presidency to the anti-immigrant leader of the National Front Party, Marine Le Pen. President Macron’s Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, chose you as France’s Foreign Minister in May 2017, with the two men betting that your selection allowed them to appoint a minister from the Hollande government who was not politically tainted by the association. They see you as someone who will support Macron’s pro-Europe policies, and who will continue working to enhance France’s profile internationally.

You will also be crucial in staging what might be called a two-front war against ISIL, both on the ground in Syria and Iraq where France attacks from the air and the sea, and at home as France faces terrorist attacks like the brutal attacks of November 2015, known to have been coordinated by ISIL from Syria. Remember that your reputation was strong enough that when Republican Nicolas Sarkozy was elected in 2007, he offered you the Defense Minister’s post, an offer that you denied, but which offers testimony for the respect you’ve earned across the political spectrum, and that seems to augur well for your ability to shape French foreign policy in ways that will enhance President Macron’s stature.

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. 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.

We are concerned with recent history more than any other period. 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 considerations of formally making Algeria part of France. However, the French regarded native Algerians as second-class citizens. Slowly, this built up a feeling of discontent in Algeria, which eventually led to a brutal civil war.

In the 1960’s, French prowess 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 who, instead of respecting the will of the people, resorted to military force to protect their hold on power.

However, unlike the U.S., France is on the doorsteps of the Middle East. After the Algerian war, France realized that it was necessary to reconcile with the Middle East. France not only relies on the Middle East for trade and resources, 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 long 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 his position of friendship was bolstered by the large number of French Jews still living in France.

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 to which France was trying to build ties of friendship found themselves under an unprovoked attack by 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 fall out of this action lasts until today. French politicians are skeptical of Israeli intentions. However, in recent years, the relationship between Israel and France have improved. Under the Sarkozy administration, the Prime Minister of Israel was hosted in France numerous times. Sarkozy also made numerous state visits to France. 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. Of course, Israel is a key political player in the Middle East. By giving Israel the cold shoulder, France lost significant influence within Israel. Israeli trade with France comes in at over 1.6 billion Euros. 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. French President Sarkozy openly stated that he did not trust Netanyahu. There are good reasons for this; in recent history France was misled by Israel. Netanyahu's government has frequently avoided the implementation of treaties regarding to 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. French atrocities committed during the Algerian war were not forgotten. By supporting the Palestinian people, France can help mend those scars.

The French are also greatly concerned with humanitarian issues. They see the Israeli treatment of Palestinians as unjust. France views the Israeli blockade 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 (that attend to political and social service work, for example) 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 arbitrarily throw Hezbollah under the bus, in order 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.

Goals

Israel/Palestine

  • 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 capital of both Israel and of the future Palestinian state.
  • France universally condemns the use of violence by both parties.
  • 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 party’s 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 party.
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