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Case Analysis 25 July, 2012

The French Socialists and Franco-Arab Relations: The Election of Francois Hollande and the Impact on France's Arab Policies


The Unit for Political Studies

The Unit for Political Studies is the Center’s department dedicated to the study of the region’s most pressing current affairs. An integral and vital part of the ACRPS’ activities, it offers academically rigorous analysis on issues that are relevant and useful to the public, academics and policy-makers of the Arab region and beyond. The Unit for Policy Studies draws on the collaborative efforts of a number of scholars based within and outside the ACRPS. It produces three of the Center’s publication series: Situation Assessment, Policy Analysis, and Case Analysis reports. 

Francois Hollande became president of the French Republic on May 6, 2012, with the traditional French Left, and the Socialist Party, cementing its victory by winning a majority of 314 seats out of the 577 parliamentary seats on the June 17, 2012 election. These two facts mean that the new French administration is free to create policies without having to worry about the opposition; the only possible challenge to this would be the result of a constitutional amendment. How will this new reality reflect on Franco-Arab relations and on France's Middle East policy in general? This paper provides an attempt to answer this question by first determining the most important factors of the previous eras in French Middle East policy, beginning with the Second World War. It then goes on to predict which factors will change and which will remain constant during the rule of Francois Hollande.

Bureaucratic Stagnation

France's deep-rooted democracy is based on a robust bureaucracy, where the institutional objectives and pace of work do not change with changes in administration and personalities. Even large-scale popular protests are not enough to topple a government in France, should that government enjoy a parliamentary majority, as is the case with today's new Socialist government. France's foreign policy, in particular, is immune to both internal and external changes since neither the objectives and aims of French foreign policy nor the means of achieving these are altered, as a rule.

One of the aspects of the entrenched bureaucracy in France is that all of the mainstream political streams prevalent in the country have some level of influence on policy-making and planning; there is no room for unruly machinations or extemporary decision-making. Once a policy is implemented, there can be no space for turning back. An example of this reality is found in the ban on wearing hijab in French state schools, which remains in place despite a public outcry. French legislation can only be abrogated by other laws. In this case, for example, the only way available for the French Muslim community to change the law would be to use the influence of a parliamentary bloc strong enough to change it. This bureaucratic inertia is also present in France's foreign policy, whereby the country's external relations are slow to react to changes in countries with which France has important relations. This applies to the cases of the fall of Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt.

One issue that has not received its due attention in Arab scholarship is the way in which the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions sidelined French diplomacy. In fact, a large swathe of the French public shared Egyptian and Tunisian disappointment with their country's position on Egypt and Tunisia during the revolutions. France appeared to be slow to react to developments and unable to make changes, a phenomenon which French commentators described as the "eclipsing" of French diplomacy, with many of them criticizing then-President Nicolas Sarkozy and his then-Foreign Minister Michel Mario. This was based on the understanding that "France's foreign policy is decided by the [presidency], and put into action by the Foreign Ministry."[1] Indeed, the Constitution of the Fifth Republic stipulates that "the most decisive factors in France's foreign policies are invested in the Office of the President of the Republic."[2] These complaints drove the Sarkozy administration to appoint a new foreign minister, and then to adopt a more proactive approach in the cases of both Libya and Syria.

It is likely, however, that the new president will be able to leave his imprint on such policies, as was the case with the first post-Second World War president, Charles de Gaulle and the other rightist presidents who followed; the same rule applied to Francois Mitterrand, France's first President from the Socialist Party. It is worth noting that Mitterrand is the undoubted spiritual father of the present generation of the French Left, including current President Francois Hollande.

France's Presidential Candidates and French Foreign Policy

The president's control of French foreign policy, in a situation known in French as the domaine reserve, dates back to the Fifth Republic established by General de Gaulle. Candidates for the presidency in France then jostle for positions by attempting to out-do each other in terms of competence in the domain of foreign relations, a situation which frees the presidential campaign of ideology.[3] A candidate's prospective foreign policy, then, as well as his or her foreign policy options, his foreign relations and international standing all become a subject of great concern. Indeed, presidential candidates' foreign policy platforms are a main plank of the presidential candidate's platform, both during and after the campaign, which explains how presidential candidates in France are seen displaying their good relations with world leaders, and the level of foreign support which they can be seen to muster.[4] This can be seen in the previous campaigns of all who won a presidential election during the Fifth Republic.[5] Some presidential candidates have even been known to marshal support from international support networks, such as when Mitterrand (in his 1974 and 1980 election campaigns) and Lionel Jospin (during the 1995 campaign) made use of the Socialist International to bolster their domestic support.[6]

It is notable that the public appreciation of France's "Arab policy," such as it is, has nothing to do historically with the French Left; indeed, this appreciation dates to the days when the country was under the rule of the rightwing General de Gaulle. In the aftermath of the June 1967 war, de Gaulle oversaw a ban on weapons sales to more than seven countries in the Middle East, including Israel.[7] The day after the hostilities, then-Prime Minister Georges Pompidou announced before the de Gaullist bloc within parliament that "a permanent peace in the Middle East can never be the result of a temporary military victory". General de Gaulle himself went on to denounce the Israelis as the instigators of the violence in an address to the French cabinet.[8]

The de Gaullists and France's Political Independence

France had been a major Israeli ally in terms of armaments, and had contributed to the construction of the Israeli nuclear reactor at Dimona, though this all came to an end after the 1967 war. While the United States was locked into blind support for the Israelis, the French were trying to balance their relations with the Arabs and Israelis in a more rational way. This stance was due, in large part, to de Gaulle's own perception of French greatness and the need for such greatness to be reflected in the country's foreign policy. Nicolas Sarkozy, with his staunchly pro-NATO stance and strong support for George Bush, was the only French president to break with this pattern set by de Gaulle.

During a press conference following the 1967 war, former French President de Gaulle described Israel as "an expansionist state" that was actively promoting Jewish immigration to its territory, and demanded that the Israeli forces evacuate occupied Arab lands.[9] De Gaulle repeated these sentiments in his own personal correspondence with founding Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.[10] Even after de Gaulle's retirement in 1969, this same policy towards the Arab-Israeli conflict was followed through by former-Prime Minister Georges Pompidou. In fact, France maintained an embargo on weapons shipments to Israel even as the country was exporting military fighter jets and tanks to Libya during December 1969. Pompidou, who had by then succeeded de Gaulle as president, reiterated the standard French line in an address before the US Congress on February 25, 1970. Depicting Israel as the aggressor, he spoke of how the Israelis had "began a preemptive war with undoubted success, based on its own belief that its safety was threatened".[11] Perhaps more pointedly, the de Gaullist Foreign Minister Michel Jobert questioned, in the aftermath of the October War of 1973 (the "Yom Kippur War"), "is it really an act of aggression to try and reclaim a home from which one has been forced out?"[12] Thi questioning, in clear sympathy with Egyptian and Syrian efforts to regain land lost during the 1967 war, was an expression of sympathy with the Arabs.

Arab-European Dialogue: A Beginning

Following Pompidou's death in office (1974), his successor as president, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, began to move French foreign policy into closer alignment with the United States. The threats posed by the Arab oil embargo were certainly a factor in this, especially as France, at the time, imported 85% of its oil needs from Arab countries, a reality that was exploited by the Zionist lobby in Europe, and France in particular, to great propaganda effect. President d'Estaing responded to this reality, in 1974, by lifting the long-standing restriction on French arms sales to the Middle East (including to Israel), and by working to improve his relations with the Arab states of the Gulf, in an attempt to ensure supplies of oil,[13] although d'Estaing did maintain, against attempts to the contrary, the general de Gaullist line on the Arab-Israeli conflict. In fact, the then-president even approved the operation of a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) press office in Paris, as of October 31, 1975.[14] Under his leadership, France had taken part in the drafting of the European Community's (as the precursor to the full European Union) declaration of June 29, 1977, which called for a comprehensive solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, and rejected the military conquest of territory. In doing so, this group called for an Israeli withdrawal from what would become the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and for full negotiations between all concerned parties, where the Palestinian people would be represented. The agreement also demanded that the full rights of the Palestinian people be respected, and called for a resolution that would protect their position in line with the United Nations.[15]

The international relations discussions of the presidential campaigns held between 1974 and 1981 remained hostage to ideological debates between the Left and Right. This changed with Ronald Reagan's election to the White House in 1981, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1980. Instead of the previous dichotomy between Soviet and American models, the ideological debate took the form of one between Anglo-Saxon liberalism, represented by de Gaullist Jacques Chirac, and another adopted by the Socialist candidate, Francois Mitterrand, which, influenced by the Scandinavian model, adopted a concern for the countries of the Third World. This was a more Keynesian approach to North-South relations, as opposed to the Reaganite approach to international relations, which was more focused on imposing Western dominance over large swathes of the world.[16]

French Socialists and the Arabs

France was under the control of Socialist governments from 1981 until 1995. While President Mitterrand, alongside the entire French Left, had considerable disagreements with de Gaulle, Pompidou, and d'Estaing on almost all major issues, he did not, as president of the Republic, divert his country's policies too far away from the de Gaullist line on Arab affairs.[17] At the beginning of his political career, which dates back to 1946, Mitterrand was known for his pro-Israeli tendencies, and for his good personal relations with former Israeli Prime Ministers Menachem Begin and Shimon Peres.[18]

The Tripartite Aggression against Egypt, known as the 1956 Suez Crisis in Britain, makes clear why this should not be at all strange. France believed that military cooperation with the Israelis could be the way for them to dominate the Suez Canal zone. Egyptian President Nasser's support for the Algerian revolution further served to push France into outstretched Israeli arms. This warming of Franco-Israeli relations reflected negatively on France's relations with nearly all Arab states, with the exception of Lebanon, between 1956 and 1962. Mitterrand himself, who had served in a variety of political positions before becoming president of the Republic in 1981, had, since 1956, been a supporter of the Israeli Labor party as a means to distinguish his own positions from those of the French Communist Party that was sympathetic to the Arabs and more closely aligned with de Gaulle. A turning point was seen in the Mitterrand's visit, hosted by the then-Mayor of Gaza Rashad al-Shawwa, to a Palestinian refugee camp in the Gaza Strip during 1973. In 1974, Mitterrand went on to meet the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Cairo. Mitterrand's views gradually became more sympathetic to Palestinian rights after this meeting, which was then followed by a visit to the West Bank and statements about the need for a Palestinian state. Additionally, he went on to express the view that "the French Socialist Party sees the Palestinian question not as a refugee crisis, but as a political question which will be resolved by the recognition of the Palestinian people's right to exist."[19] By 1980, shortly before his election to the presidency in the following year, Mitterrand called for reciprocal recognition between the Israelis and the PLO.[20] Mitterrand, unlike Lyon Bloom, was never so staunchly ideological as to place [ideological] commitment to the Zionists before France's Arab interests. [21] He also clearly understood that the 1970s gave rise to a new era compared to the 1930s, with the Front Populaire (the Popular Front of France); the 1950s, with the Tripartite Aggression on Egypt; and the 1960s, when French and Arab leaders were in conflict.

Mitterrand led the French Socialist Party into a break with its tradition of unconditional support for the Israelis, and the group began, in the 1970s, a revision of its Arab policies. While this new policy did not change the Party's belief in the right of the Israeli state to exist - enshrined in its founding charter - there was a new article added to it, affirming the right of "all peoples" to national sovereignty, explicitly including "the Palestinian Arab nation, which is free to choose its own leaders".[22] The same position was reflected in what was called the Common Program, agreed to by the Socialists alongside a number of other leftist groupings, such as the French Communist Party and the Radical left, which included a commitment to "respect the right of self-determination of the Arab people of Palestine".[23]

After arriving at the presidency, Mitterrand worked to calm Arab fears by appointing a number of ministers known for their pro-Arab leanings, and a generally sympathetic approach to the Third World. These included people like Michel Rocard, Jean-Pierre Chevenement, Claude Cheysson, and a number of Communist ministers. Socialist Party Secretary General Lionel Jospin also reflected the same sentiments in his public pronouncements. One of the more pointed of such gestures was the fact that Mitterrand began his term in office by receiving then-King Khaled of Saudi Arabia at the Presidential Elysee Palace on June 13, 1981. Mitterrand's efforts to build bridges with the Arab states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) were enshrined in an agreement between the GCC and the European Economic Community in 1988, though it should be noted that, in practice, these relations never really met their set ambitions. They were manifested only in a number of symposia and workshops focused on matters of mutual concern between the two sides, including such things as energy and the environment, administrative development, university education, private sector investments, and so on. Even this kind of limited cooperation between the two parties did not put a stop to periodic disputes, centered on such things as human rights violations in the Gulf states, between the GCC and the European Community.

These shifts in French Arab policy under Mitterrand also arose within the context of a broader shift in European attitudes towards the Arab-Israeli conflict. Evidence of this shift includes such meetings as the first-ever meeting in Cairo of a Euro-Arab Dialogue (EAD) in 1975. The European Community would go on to issue the Venice Declaration on June 13, 1980, calling for a negotiated settlement to the Palestinian question. Still, France remained alone within the European Community in championing a purely negotiated, mediated settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Mitterrand's policies towards the Arab Maghreb in particular were more pragmatic in outlook and, in this regard, he moved further away from the stated positions of the Common Program that he shared with the broader French Left that brought him into power.[24]

It was in the Maghreb region that Mitterrand's attempts to balance French policy came into focus; it was also there that his own personal relationships came into play. He had enjoyed good personal relations with the late King Hassan II of Morocco, something that likely drove his disapproval of independence for the Western Sahara. Similarly, Mitterrand had been on very good personal terms with Algerian former-President Chadli Bendjedid, until the latter was deposed in 1992, which ultimately prevented Mitterrand from holding any meetings with Algerian officials between 1993 and 1995.[25] Tunisia was one country where Mitterrand's personal relations with the head of state, including both Habib Bouregiba and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, could be described as cordial. This issue of Mitterrand's personal standing with the head of state did not come into play in Libya, however, where the main factor was the Franco-Libyan dispute over the Chad conflict.

These Franco-Maghrebi relations fall into Mitterrand's overall approach to cooperation along the Mediterranean. The idea of a Forum Mediterraneen was, in fact, Mitterrand's, and not later French presidents who might have taken credit for it, as in 1975 he invited the heads of the Socialist parties from Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Greece to consider ways of enhancing cooperation between all states in the Mediterranean basin. Mitterrand had first voiced this idea during a meeting at Marrakech in 1983, in which he envisaged a community of Arab Maghreb countries alongside the three members of the then European Community (France, Portugal, and Spain) that overlook the Mediterranean, where they could discuss matters of joint security and economic cooperation.[26] The first meeting for this group, however, was held-up due to objections from Algeria, which had given priority to resolving the Western Sahara case over holding meetings of the forum, thus the Forum's first meeting was not held until 1988 (when it was held in Marseilles).

All of the above notwithstanding, it cannot be said that Mitterrand presided over a transformation in France's Israeli policy. In fact, Mitterrand would constantly remind the Arabs that the Israelis also formed a part of the Mediterranean, in a sense promoting normalization of Arab-Israeli relations. Additionally, Mitterrand visited Tel Aviv during March of 1982, much to the consternation of the Arabs.[27] Added to this, of course, was French participation in the 1991 US-led operation known as "Desert Storm," in which Iraq suffered excessive damages.

The New de Gaullists and Their Opponents

Jacques Chirac arrived at the Presidential Palace in 1995, bringing about a renaissance for de Gaullist politics, with all they entailed for independence of French foreign policy in relation to the US. This new independence of spirit could be felt in his reaction to a number of international issues, especially that of imposing UN sanctions on Iran, as Chirac believed that dialogue was the only solution.[28] This was completely reversed by Sarkozy, also a de Gaullist, whose own policy was much more closely aligned with the Americans, and who generally maintained the same American "carrot-and-stick" approach to foreign affairs; he was also the first French president since de Gaulle to truly bring France back into the NATO fold. A similar change took place in French policy towards Turkish membership of the European Union, the successor to the European Economic Community. Speaking on French television, Chirac claimed that it would be a mistake to deny Turkey the chance for membership of the EU, given the efforts the country had made.[29] Sarkozy, on the other hand, took a completely different approach, later saying that he opposed Turkish membership of the EU because of the cultural differences between Turkey and the other European members (i.e., Turkey's Muslim population). Sarkozy further enraged the Turks when the issue of the Armenian genocide became a question for discussion within the French parliament.[30] While Chirac's failure to obey Israeli commands on his visits to Tel Aviv received harsh criticism from the Israeli authorities, Sarkozy saw fit to state that "Israel is the miracle of the 20th century" during a visit in October 2007.[31] Sarkozy was, indeed, the French president most forthright in his admiration for Zionism.

Forecasting the Foreign Policy of Hollande's Presidency: The Socialist Party or the State?

Hollande's foreign policy is likely to be based not only on the Socialist Party's traditions as a whole, but also on the iconic socialist figure of Francois Mitterrand. However, important as Mitterrand was, and as influential as he has been to the Socialist party's heritage and to France in general, Hollande can also be counted on to be his own president, living in a different era. One could say that the Mitterrand legacy is in fact an additional burden on Hollande, who is likely to try and create his own reputation as a strong leader within Europe. The extent to which he is influenced by the thinking of the political party elevating him to power remains to be seen.

Of course, having the Socialist Party in power does not mean that they will necessarily change everything about the French state's policy. Regardless of the ideology of the party rank-and-file, the government of the day will have to protect the interests of the French state as such interests are generally perennial. It was Hollande himself who, speaking from a position of wanting to make the then-government more leftwing during his time as a member of the Lionel Jospin cabinet, described relations between the Socialist government and the Socialist Party as a whole as one governed by "constructive criticism".[32]

Leaving Hollande's principled positions aside, it remains true that France's foreign relations will be decided by the level of cultural, financial, and trade interactions with other countries, verifiable factors which usually lead to investment opportunities. These types of interaction between states can take the form of energy and oil and gas trade, weapons sales, capital flow, and others. History has shown that these major determinants of a country's foreign policy remain largely immune to ideological influence of either the Left or the Right. The interest shown by successive French governments, regardless of political persuasion in, for example, the GCC states has remained constant throughout. French eagerness to build direct contacts with energy-exporting countries has brought much criticism from its European and North American allies. A particular example of this is the way in which France attempted to secure oil-drilling rights in Iraq, which won the country the ire of the George Bush administration.

This pattern cannot be expected to change dramatically under Hollande, for while he may have vociferously denounced the foreign policies of his predecessors,[33] and while the French Left has long had a reputation for support of people in the Third World, particularly democratic, secular, and leftist movements within those countries,[34] this will not prevent the Socialists, in power again, from maintaining good relations with conservative regimes the French state relies on for economic advancement. This might also be because the very idea of socialism within Europe has changed;[35] socialist parties on the continent will now lead that change, or at least go along with it. What is certain, however,[36] is that their relations with conservative regimes that hold French economic and political interests will remain in place.

It is not likely that the new Socialist president of France will give ideological considerations too much attention in his dealings with the Gulf States, regardless of the specific circumstances of the Arab Spring because this wave of revolutions has not considerably altered the policies of the GCC states. Similarly, the foreign ministry officials of the Quay d'Orsay (the Paris neighborhood where the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs is located), have a long-cherished tradition of maintaining links with conservative regimes, regardless of the party which controls France's politics. Hollande may have been the candidate of the far-Left of the Socialist Party, but the protocols established by the Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642) remain in place.

An example of how France's interests lead the way for its actions can be seen in how its oil suppliers have changed. In 1970, France received equal levels of oil imports from countries in the Arab Maghreb and those Arab states in the wider Gulf.[37] Several years later, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Iraq accounted for more than 75% of French oil imports from the Arab states, while Libya and Algeria came to account for only 6.1% of those imports.[38] Mitterrand's victory, on behalf of the Socialist Party in 1981, in the first election of a president under universal suffrage, did not change this reality. Quite the contrary, actually, since, as explained earlier, Mitterrand's first foreign engagement was a visit to Saudi Arabia. Of course, while France relied on the Arab states for its oil needs, it equally relied on the Arabs to buy roughly 60% of their weapons exports.[39] Franco-Arab economic cooperation also took on other, more complex forms. These included the formation of joint Franco-Arab banks, when capitalists from oil-rich Arab states were invited to invest in French banks and other financial institutions. A similar arrangement was the triangular arrangements made between France and some of its Arab partners. In these arrangements, Arab capital from oil-rich states was invested in French technology to help develop industrial factories in poorer Arab states. It is these types of arrangements that Francois Hollande cannot be expected to change.

Former Mitterrand foreign policy advisor, Hubert Vedrine, has explicitly made the prediction that Hollande would preserve the same "de Gaullist-Mitterrandist" policies, which he describes as the "essence of the Fifth Republic's policy".[40] Vedrine describes this policy as "a realism that rapidly developed in line with world developments, while maintaining the institutional commitment to a distinct foreign policy for France".[41]

One of the most important ways in which Hollande is likely to differ from his predecessor is his stated commitment, included in his electoral program, to a Palestinian state, a complete break with Sarkozy, who made no such commitment.[42] Hollande's stance can be seen to be a broad continuation of Mitterrand's own attitudes seeing as the former President had foretold the birth of an independent Palestinian state as far back as 1982.[43] This statement reveals that France will now seek to have a role in the Middle East, and looks forward to being a more proactive European influence on the long-since moribund peace process. Such a role, however, can only become more active with the approval of the other influential players in the situation, chief among them being the Israelis. Notably, the present Israeli government is ideologically antithetical to the French Socialists, but the Socialists themselves may find it easier to deal with the Democrats in the United States (pending that they stay in power). In addition to its relations with the traditional Middle East, France under Hollande is likely to reassess its role with states in the Arab Maghreb, as well as Egypt, which were also mentioned in Hollande's electoral campaign.

It can be said, then, that France under Hollande will seek to make use of the Arab Spring to drive France away from what Sarkozy had referred to as "Judeo-Christian values" and "the politics of civilization".[44] Hollande, instead, is likely to emphasize the ideals of the French Republic: secularism and enlightened moderation; he is likely to adopt a tolerant, progressive approach to dealings with those countries in which revolutions have brought Islamists to power.

Some analysts have even suggested that this new French focus on the Horn of Africa and the Gulf will come at the expense of its traditional spheres of influence in sub-Saharan Africa.[45] Such claims are based on the transfer of a French military base from Senegal to Abu Dhabi in the UAE, for example. Sub-Saharan Africa will likely remain a focus of French diplomatic attention simply because the countries of sub-Saharan Africa have long been a site for French political influence and cultural projection. Indeed, Hollande can be relied upon to carry on one of the Socialists' preferred forms of international cooperation - providing technical assistance and expertise to Third World countries, the beneficiaries of which are clearly more likely to be poor countries in sub-Saharan Africa than oil-rich Arab states on the Gulf.[46] Instead, this can be seen as the expansion of French influence into regions that previously fell within the Anglophonic sphere, such as Iraq and the Gulf States. Aside from the Arab states, from the Maghreb to the Gulf, Hollande will also have to re-examine French relations with the other Middle Eastern states.

There is the question of the Franco-Turkish relationship, previously ruined by Sarkozy, as well as the question of Iran. It will be doubtlessly more difficult to predict which way the French Socialists will move on Iran, yet it remains clear that they will be far less likely than Hollande's predecessor Sarkozy to call for the use of force. Iranian publicity outlets tried to make use of the recent visit of French Socialist politician Michel Rocard, describing it as "a new beginning".[47] Whether or not Rocard was authorized by Hollande to visit Tehran, the French Rightists did find time to attack the visit.[48] Reality dictates that the French position will not change much compared to that of its Western allies, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, and they are likely to continue demanding Iran comply with Western pressure.

The Socialist Party does not make a secret of its views; they will do what they can to bend the bureaucratic machinery to their will, regardless of the latter's inertia. Nonetheless, there will likely be little if any change in the short to medium term. Politics has its realities, and diplomacy is just one of its tools.

[1] See: "La voix de la France a disparu dans le monde" ("The voice of France is disappearing from the world stage"), written by the Marly Group of former French diplomats, in Le Monde, February 22, 2011. The article offered sharp criticism of former-President Sarkozy for his sycophantic attitude towards US dismissiveness of diplomats which, the Marly Group claims, has cost France its stature in international relations. The original French article can be read at the following link: http://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2011/02/22/on-ne-s-improvise-pas-diplomate_1483517_3232.html.

[2] See: Isabelle Le Breton-Falezan, "Dimensions internationales des campagnes présidentielles sous la Vème république," ("The international aspects of French presidential elections during the Vth Republic"), Annuaire Français de Relations Internationales, 2001, Vol. 2, http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/fr/IMG/pdf/FD001363.pdf.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Interestingly, both the United States and the former Soviet Union supported d'Estaing in his bid against Mitterrand. See: Le Breton-Falezan, op.cit.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] These seven states being: Israel, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. See: Buquntar al-Hassan, As Siyasa al-Kharijia al-Faransia aza al-Watan al-Arabi munth aam 1967 ("French Foreign Policy towards the Arab Nation Since 1967"), (Center for Arab Unity Studies, Beirut, 1987), p. 45.

[8]Ali Mahaftha, Fransa wa al-Widha al-Arabia: 1945-2000 ("France and Arab Unity: 1945-2000), (Center for Arab Unity Studies, Beirut, 2008), p. 270.

[9] Ibid., p. 271.

[10] Ali Mahaftha, pp. 272-273.

[11] Ibid., p. 275.

[12] Ibid., p. 279.

[13] Buquntar al-Hassan, p. 64.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ali Mahaftha, p. 284.

[16] According to Isabel Le Breton-Falezan, Mitterrand's approach was defined by "sympathy with progressive forces in the [Global] South". Le Breton-Falzen adds: "this new internationalist attitude is a ‘Third Way,' and [was] based on a more direct resistance to the Soviets than was found in the United States". See: Le Breton-Falezan, op.cit.

[17] At the time, there was a real question about the extent to which Mitterrand may or may not have preferred the Israelis to the Arab states, yet, as Le Breton-Falezan points out, there is no evidence to suggest his campaign was supported by either the United States or the Soviet Union.

[18] Jean-Pierre Filiu, "Mitterrand et la Palestine" (Mitterrand and Palestine), Institut François Mitterrand, La Lettre No 15, April 24, 2006.

[19] Le Nouvel Observateur, November 25, 1974.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Lyon Bloom, a 1930s French Socialist figurehead, was also an ally of Chaim Weizmann (the first President of Israel). Guy Mollet was another leader of the French Socialist Party, who was prime minister at the time of the Tripartite Aggression by France, Britain, and the Israelis against Egypt. Following the Israeli aggression against the Arabs in the June 1967 war, a number of French Socialist politicians, including Guy Mollet, Gaston Defferre, Francois Mitterrand, and Pierre Mendes-France, continued to express their pro-Israeli views. See Buquntar al-Hassan, pp. 74-75.

[22] Ibid., p. 77.

[23] Ibid., p. 78.

[24] Ali Mahaftha, p. 313.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] See: "Al-Malaf al-Filisteeni lal Hizb al-Ishtiraki wa ziyarat Mitterrand l Israel" ("Mitterrand's Israeli visit and Palestine amongst French Socialists"), Journal of Palestine Studies (Arabic), Vol. 4, Summer 1982, pp. 167-177. See also: al-Hassan, op. cit., pp. 85-86.

[28] Tsilla Hershco, "Sarkozy's Policy in the Middle-East: A Break with the Past?," Insight Turkey, 11(2), 2009, pp. 75-91.

[29] Ibid.

[30] As an example of one of the many reports in the French press, see: Laure Marchand, "Sarkozy prend la Turquie pour un punching-ball," Le Nouvel Observateur, December 12, 2011, http://tempsreel.nouvelobs.com/monde/20111222.OBS7400/sarkozy-prend-la-turquie-pour-un-punching-ball.html.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Robert Ladrech, "Europeanization and French social democracy," Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans, 3(1), 2000.

[33] Bruce Crumley, an interview with French presidential front-runner François Hollande, Time, April 13, 2012,


[34] According to Donald Sassoon, the author of One Hundred Years of Socialism, the French Left, as was the case with the Left throughout Western Europe, found it exceedingly to develop their own, distinct foreign policy. It is clear that this vacillation between loyalty to the Left's traditional principles and the demands of a state's interests, drove Mitterrand to take advice from Regis de Pre, who fought alongside Che Guevara in Bolivia, and the elitist Jacques Attali, simultaneously. It is also true that Mitterrand applied, to the full extent possible, de Gaulle's vision of what France's role in the world should be, while at the same continued to challenge de Gaulle himself. Some have described Mitterrand as Machiavellian. For a deeper history of the French Socialists, see:

Donald Sassoon, One Hundred Years of Socialism: The West European Left in the Twentieth Century, (IB Tauris: New York, 2010), pp. 534-571.

[35] For more on how the French Socialist Party changed along with developments in Europe, see: Ladrech, op. cit.

[36] In the words of Alain Touraine, in 1985, France "voted in a Socialist government at a time when the rest of the world was becoming post-Socialist." Ibid., p. 568.

[37] Buquntar al-Hassan, p. 125.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Ibid., p. 129.

[40] Vedrine had been President Mitterrand's foreign policy adviser from 1991 to 1995, before becoming Lionel Jospin's Foreign Minister from 1997 to 2002. He is also widely regarded as an expert on French foreign policy.

[41] Hubert Vedrine, "Francois Hollande a beaucoup de cartes en main," Liberation, May 10, 2012, http://www.hubertvedrine.net/index.php?id_article=581.

[42] Hollande's election manifesto, published under the title "The 60 Commitments," can be read in French here:


[43] Following a meeting with President Mahmoud Abbas of Palestine during June of 2012, Francois Hollande affirmed the importance of reviving the peace process, and declared his support for the establishment of a Palestinian state through negotiations. See the following from France 24 (in English), published June 8, 2012:


[44] For a discussion of this, as well as Sarkozy's foreign policies, see: Hershco, op. cit., pp. 75-91.

[45] Brinton Rowdybush and Patrick Chamorel, "Aspirations and Reality: French Foreign Policy and the 2012 Elections," The Washington Quarterly, Winter 2012.

[46] Ibid.

[47] "Michel Rocard à Téhéran, émissaire de Hollande selon les journaux iraniens" ("Iranian newspapers report Michel Rocard, on a visit to Tehran, as a Hollande emissary"), Nouvelles d'Iran, May 16, 2012: http://keyhani.blog.lemonde.fr/2012/05/16/rocard-a-teheran-lemissaire-dhollande-selon-les-journaux-iraniens.

[48] "L'ump dénonce le ‘déplacement inopportun' de Rocard en Iran" ("The Union for a Popular Movement condemns Rochard's visit to Iran"), Le Monde, May 13, 2012: http://www.lemonde.fr/proche-orient/article/2012/05/13/l-iran-deroule-le-tapis-rouge-pour-michel-rocard_1700511_3218.html.