Sarkozy: Shun Israel, and I shun you

Nicolas Sarkozy said he would shun world leaders who do not recognize the state of Israel.

“I won’t shake hands with people who refuse to recognize Israel,” the French president told Jewish leaders last week.

Fulfilling the promise that he made almost a year ago, Sarkozy inaugurated an era of renewed warmth between the French government and the Paris Jewish community, when he became the first French president to speak at the annual dinner for CRIF, the Jewish umbrella group in France.

Addressing a crowd of more than 1,000 Jewish leaders and politicians from the political right and left, Sarkozy vowed to combat anti-Semitism, and predicted 2008 would be crucial for the newly reconciled relationship between France and Israel.

He insists that a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians is “absolutely possible,” and that France’s upcoming position as leader of the European Union means “Israel can count on a new dynamic to its relationship with the E.U.”

Sarkozy, whose election as French president last year significantly warmed ties between Paris and Jerusalem, called for U.N. Security Council sanctions against Tehran to be stepped up until it abandons its nuclear program.

Sarkozy also said France would not participate in the second U.N. Durban conference on racism if it appears to be a repeat of the 2001 anti-Semitic debacle.

Sarkozy also talked about anti-Semitism in France, pledging to combat it through education, including a proposal to have every 10- or 11-year-old in the country entrusted with the profile of a French Jewish child killed during the Holocaust.

“I’m very touched and interested,” Ariel Goldmann, CRIF’s vice president, said of the elementary school memorial initiative. “I think it’s a magnificent idea, and that it will last.” — jta