France – Nicolas Sarkozy, the grandson of a Greek Jew, has been elected president of France. Optimistic and celebratory, Jewish groups were quick to offer congratulations to Sarkozy after his victory in French presidential elections.
Sarkozy, of the ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), defeated Socialist Party candidate Segolene Royal in Sunday’s runoff.
He garnered some 53 percent to Royal’s 47 percent in the election, which featured a huge voter turnout.
The former interior minister was seen by Jewish voters as a friend to Israel and an important figure in the fight against antisemitism. Soon after his opponent conceded, Jewish groups came out with their good wishes.
“At a time when French Jews felt directly threatened by the rise in violent antisemitism in Paris and elsewhere across France a few years ago, Sarkozy played a critical role in moving the French government to finally recognise the gravity of the problem and to do what is necessary to address the ill winds that not only threaten the largest Jewish community in Western Europe, but, as we know from history, would ultimately pose a threat to wider French society,” American Jewish Committee executive director David Harris said in a statement.
Sarkozy during that period was instrumental in stepping up police protection around Jewish buildings and schools, and arresting and prosecuting those who committed anti-Semitic acts. He told the group in a Washington address in 2004 that he would “consider any insult against Jews an insult against France.” [JTA]