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The Media Line: Similar Worldviews, Common Interests as Macron Hosts Yair Lapid in Paris

Similar Worldviews, Common Interests as Macron Hosts Yair Lapid in Paris

Warm reception could help Israeli leader in November election, experts say

By Debbie Mohnblatt/The Media Line

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid visited Paris on Tuesday, in his first trip since he entered office on Friday.

Lapid and French President Emmanuel Macron discussed several topics including the negotiations on reviving the Iranian nuclear deal, the Israeli-Lebanese dispute over gas-rich territorial waters, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The two leaders called each other friends and showed exceptional warmth to each other during the visit.

Shai Bazak, the CEO of ELNET-Israel, an NGO fostering dialogue and strengthening relations between Europe and Israel, and a seasoned former diplomat, told The Media Line that for every prime minister, “If he has the right international connections and persona, it shows the Israeli public his relations and his skills on international policy. And that is a big part of the job of prime minister in Israel.”

Bazak noted that the visit was planned before then-Prime Minister Naftali Bennett decided to dissolve the Knesset, and Bennett was expected to be the one visiting Paris. He added that in the event, it is certainly helpful for Lapid’s image among the Israeli public ahead of the country’s November 1 election.

“It was very good for Israelis to see the friendship that President Macron and Prime Minister Yair Lapid showed to each other,” Bazak said.

Ashley Perry, a global communications strategist and a former senior adviser to Israeli government ministers, noted that this warmth between the leaders is in large part due to the ideological similarities between them.

Perry recalled that Macron first introduced himself in the French political scene “on the platform of radical centrism. That is very similar to Prime Minister Lapid.

“Ideologically, they will find a lot more in common than what President Macron would have found with PM Bennett or PM Netanyahu,” he told The Media Line.

The similar worldviews would help to make the conversation more intimate and confident, Perry said.

Bazak noted that there are all kinds of gestures that French presidents extend to visitors, to show whether they are in favor or they are just receiving them as a formality.

One of them, he explained, concerns where the president meets his guests.

There are stairs leading down to where cars arrive at the Élysée Palace, and usually, the president waits for his guest to climb up.

If the president descends a few stairs and meets the foreign leader halfway, it shows that he is in the French leader’s good graces. If the president walks all the way down, it shows that the guest is very favorably regarded indeed, Bazak continued.

“I saw yesterday that President Macron walked all the way toward Lapid and they embraced. In the French diplomatic code, it shows a lot of satisfaction and friendship,” he said.

“It is good for Lapid and it is good for the people of Israel to have such relations with such an important country,” Bazak said.

Perry said these images, together with those of Lapid receiving US President Joe Biden during his visit to Israel next week, will be used by Lapid’s party during the electoral campaign.

Images of the caretaker prime minister with world leaders and specifically with Biden, he said, “will certainly be introduced by the Yesh Atid party’s campaign to present Yair Lapid as someone ready to lead full time, and not just on an interim basis.”

However, he added that they are unlikely to bring Yesh Atid many votes from the Center-Right. “It is probably more likely to bring him more votes in the Center, Center-Left. Possibly from the Blue and White party and similar ideological competitors,” Perry continued.

Bazak mentioned some of Macron and Lapid’s similarities and common interests.

They are from the same generation (44 and 58 years old, respectively), share the values of loving their country, liberalism, and understanding the modern world, and both are very charming people, he explained.

“It seems to be personal and also a national matter,” he added.

Concerning the common interests of the leaders and their countries, Bazak continued, “I think that France, just like Israel, is concerned about what is going on in the Middle East, about what is going on in Iran, and about the influence of Iran in Lebanon.”

He noted that traditionally, France has great interest in Lebanon and Syria.

“They share concerns about Hizbullah, which is a terrorist organization that controls a big part of Lebanon, and its citizens suffer because of it. That creates instability on the northern border of Israel and threatens the country with hundreds of thousands of missiles and rockets aimed at Israel at any given moment,” he said.

“France understands it, Macron understands it, and Israel understands it,” Bazak continued.

Perry believes Iran was probably the key issue discussed by the two men.

As a member of the P5+1, of the Security Council, and as a prominent member of the EU, France has a lot of clout globally and especially concerning the Iran nuclear deal, he explained.

“They have a long-running coordination on preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” continued Perry.

The P5+1, the UN Security Council’s five permanent members plus Germany, has joined together since 2006 in negotiations with Tehran on its nuclear program.

Perry noted that while Israel is not interested in a return to the nuclear deal, France certainly is, “perhaps a more robust version.”

Bazak said there are also other matters on the table.

One of them is the indirect maritime border negotiations between Israel and Lebanon. As soon as the issue is resolved, Lebanon will see great benefits, he added.

“France has some influence in Lebanon and of course, it can help,” he said.

Additionally, France and Israel are celebrating the Abraham Accords’ achievements and the new reality that they created in the Middle East, Bazak said.

And the two countries share the concern about what Russia will do to Ukraine now and the new reality in Europe of war on the continent, he explained.

“Europe is Israel’s biggest trade partner. More than China or the US, and France is a big part of it,” Bazak said.

 

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