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Warm welcome could help Israeli leader in November elections, experts say

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

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

The two leaders called each other friends and were exceptionally warm during the visit.

Shai Bazak, CEO of ELNET-Israel, an NGO promoting 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 good international relations and the right personality, he shows the Israeli public his connections and skills in international politics. And that’s a big part of the prime minister’s job in Israel.

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

“It was very good for the 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 former senior adviser to ministers in the Israeli government, noted that this warmth between the leaders is largely due to the ideological similarities between them.

Perry recalled that Macron first entered the French political scene “on the platform of radical centrism. It is very similar to Prime Minister Lapid.

“Ideologically, they will find much more in common than President Macron would have found with Prime Minister Bennett or Prime Minister Netanyahu,” he told The Media Line.

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

I saw yesterday that President Macron walked up to Lapid and they kissed. In the French diplomatic code, it shows a lot of satisfaction and friendship

Bazak noted that there are all sorts of gestures French presidents make to visitors, to show whether they are supportive or just receiving them as a formality.

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

There are stairs going down where the cars arrive at the Élysée Palace, and usually the president waits for his guest to come up. If the president goes down a few steps and meets the foreign leader halfway, it shows that he is in the good graces of the French leader. If the president walks to the end, it shows that the guest is indeed highly regarded, Bazak continued.

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

“It’s good for Lapid and it’s good for the people of Israel to have such a relationship with such an important country,” Bazak said.

Perry said these images, along 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 election campaign.

Images of the interim prime minister with world leaders and specifically with Biden, he said, “will certainly be introduced by the Yesh Atid party’s campaign to portray 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 center-right votes. “It is undoubtedly more likely to bring him more votes in the Center, Center-Gauche. Possibly from the Blue and White party and similar ideological competitors,” Perry continued.

Bazak mentioned some of the similarities and common interests of Macron and Lapid.

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

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

Regarding the common interests of the leaders and their countries, Bazak continued: “I think that France, like Israel, is concerned about what is happening in the Middle East, what is happening in Iran and the influence from Iran. in Liban.”

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

“They share their concerns about Hezbollah, which is a terrorist organization that controls much of Lebanon, and its citizens are suffering. This creates instability on Israel’s northern border and threatens the country with hundreds of thousands of missiles and rockets aimed at Israel at all times,” he said.

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

They have a long-standing coordination to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon

Perry thinks 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 leading member of the EU, France has a lot of influence in the world and in particular concerning the Iranian nuclear agreement, he said. he explains.

“They have longstanding coordination to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Perry continued.

The P5+1, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, have united since 2006 in negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear program.

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

Bazak said there are other issues on the table as well.

One of them concerns the negotiations on the indirect maritime border between Israel and Lebanon. As soon as the problem is solved, Lebanon will reap great benefits, he added.

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

Additionally, France and Israel celebrate the achievements of the Abraham Accords and the new reality they created in the Middle East, Bazak said.

Europe is Israel’s biggest trading partner – more so than China or the US – and France is a big part of it

And both countries share 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 trading partner – more so than China or the United States – and France is a big part of that,” Bazak said.