President Nicolas Sarkozy may be fighting for popularity back home in France, but in Israel he is among friends. The honeymoon period with the new French leader appears without end for the man they call “Sarko the Israeli”. His grandfather was a Greek Jew.
This is the first visit by a French leader to Israel in 12 years, and comes at an extremely crucial time. France is being seen as an important political partner.
In 1982, then French President Francois Mitterand turned relations between the two countries upside down when he spoke in the Knesset, and called for a Palestinian state. But Sarkozy was paying no heed to history as he stood in the same place and was equally forceful .
“I think there can be no peace without a total and immediate halt to settlement activity,” he said.
He also promised Israel was not alone in its stance towards Iran, while saying Gaza checkpoints should be lifted and Jerusalem become a joint capital.
The Israeli politicians clapped. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas apparently joined in the applause from the West Bank.
Sarkozy will hold talks with Abbas in Bethlehem later today.
There are fears the US drive for peace will slow down as November’s election approaches. France could take up the broker role on behalf of the European Union.