Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sarkozy at the UN

I neglected to comment on Sarkozy's speech at the UN. Here is the text. I thought he acquitted himself quite well, maintaining his balance while offering a modest proposal to move things forward:

Faut-il pour autant exclure une étape intermédiaire ? Pourquoi ne pas envisager pour la Palestine le statut d’Etat observateur aux Nations Unies ? Ce serait un pas important, nous sortirions après 60 ans de l’immobilisme, l’immobilisme qui fait le lit des extrémistes. Nous redonnerions un espoir aux Palestiniens en marquant des progrès vers le statut final.
To be sure, he wrapped himself in the mantle of the Arab Spring, overstating its achievements in a manner befitting his identification with its latest and most ambiguous episode, regime change in Libya:

Je veux le dire avec une profonde et sincère amitié pour le peuple israélien : Ecoutez ce que criait la jeunesse des printemps arabes. Ils criaient : « Vive la liberté ! ». Ils ne criaient pas : « à bas Israël ». Vous ne pouvez pas rester immobiles alors que ce vent de liberté et de démocratie souffle dans votre région.
This passage conveniently ignored the attack on the Israeli embassy in Egypt, where cries of "à bas Israël" were indeed heard. This Le Monde article tries hard to paint Sarkozy as somehow uniquely fitted for the peacemaking role, playing up his Jewish ancestry, about which we rarely hear in any other context, and his supposed rupture with past French policy, which is unfairly maligned. I see Sarkozy's Middle East policy as evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Operating under tight constraints, Sarkozy maintained his footing and his credibility as a potential broker, not wedded to the American position and sensitive to the desiderata of both sides. This was as much as he could accomplish at the UN, and he was equal to the occasion.

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