France's prime minister, who has Jewish roots, is the country's rising political star

Gabriel Attal is the youngest prime minister in the history of the republic and a possible successor to President Emmanuel Macron

The rising star of French politics marked a new record last month when he was appointed the republic’s youngest-ever prime minister. Gabriel Attal, just 34, took up the position which makes him not only President Emmanuel Macron’s right-hand-man but also his possible successor when the president’s term is up.
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Although France’s next elections are three years away, France’s presidential two-term limit means that Macron will not be up for re-election. Political centrists will then be in search of a candidate to attract moderate voters interested in neither the extreme left nor the extreme right.
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הנשיא מקרון וגבריאל אטל, ראש ממשלת צרפת
הנשיא מקרון וגבריאל אטל, ראש ממשלת צרפת
New French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, left, could succeed President Emmanuel Macron in three years' time
(Photo: Ludovic Marin / AP)
Attal is the son of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother. His late father, lawyer and film producer Yves Attal, was of Tunisian and Alsatian descent, and his mother hails from a Christian Russian Orthodox background.
He rarely speaks about his Jewish heritage and does not publicly identify as Jewish. He has, however, indirectly referenced social media attacks and “shocking messages” he has received regarding his Jewish background and the fact that he is openly homosexual. Throughout his tenure as France's minister of education, Attal combatted bullying in schools including that of minorities such as Jews.
In a rare statement about his Jewish heritage, he told the French Gala magazine that his father once told him: “You may not be Jewish, but you will always feel solidarity with the Jewish people because you will always face antisemitism due to your family name,” adding that he has indeed encountered antisemitism over the years.
During a visit to the Jewish Ozar Hatorah school in the Parisien suburb of Sarcelles in October following Hamas’ attack on Israel, Attal explained that “as a government, we won’t ignore antisemitic attacks or statements. Ensuring students’ safety and maintaining a peaceful and orderly environment in schools is the Ministry of Education’s top priority.”
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גבריאל אטל, ראש ממשלת צרפת
גבריאל אטל, ראש ממשלת צרפת
New French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal
(Photo: Ludovic Marin / AP)
The statement comes on the heels of a wave of antisemitism sweeping across France not only at rowdy pro-Palestinian demonstrations, but also via attacks on Jews, threats to synagogues and Jewish institutions, as well as spray-painting Stars of David on Jewish homes.

Does not identify as Jewish

Although Attal seldom mentions his Jewish heritage and is not part of the Jewish community, he maintains good relations with it. Jonathan Arfi, the president of CRIF – the umbrella organization of French Jews, told Ynet that Attal “doesn’t identify as a Jew but, like many politicians, has a good relationship with the community. I know he’s been attacked on antisemitic grounds in the past and, like other French leaders today, he’s very much aware of the subject and has been working toward increasing awareness and enforcement where required.”
“In general, French Jewry’s sense of helplessness about antisemitism is less dramatic than it has been in the past," according to Afri. "Following the Toulouse (2012) and the Hyper Casher (2015) attacks, we felt very much alone and that the political system wasn’t doing enough to address the problem. However, awareness has now increased and politicians better appreciate the urgency of the issue. We feel they’re responding better and that we have a greater sense of security. That said, both right-wing and left-wing antisemitism continue to weigh heavy on Jews in France.”

He could face Marine Le Pen in a presidential race

Macron’s term of office is due to come to an end in three years’ time and, in accordance with France’s constitution, he will retire from his position. Far-right politician Marine Le Pen is expected to, once again, make it through to a second round in a presidential election. The big question is who will run against her.
“The Muslim vote will probably be the deciding factor. They’ve always voted for whoever was running against Le Pen. Macron clearly won only after receiving their support,” explains Ariel Kandel, CEO of Qualita, the umbrella organization of French-speaking Jews in Israel. “The Muslims have enormous sway at the polls, but there’s another three years until elections and anything could happen between now and then.”
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 רוססו מגן דוד על בתים של יהודים ברובע ה-14 בפריז, צרפת
 רוססו מגן דוד על בתים של יהודים ברובע ה-14 בפריז, צרפת
Star of David was sprayed on Jewish-owned houses in the 14th arrondissement in Paris, France
Do you think Attal’s Jewish background and sexual orientation could be acceptable to all voters in France? “It’s hard to tell. No one’s money was on Macron at the outset. France had always honored its veteran politicians and until Macron came along, no one thought anyone so young could win. Now, left and right have become jumbled. Attal’s chances are good and he knows it. He has three years to put in the work before the next elections. A lot is about the momentum leading up to elections and who the leading candidate running against Le Pen is. Voters often choose their default candidate, rather than who they really want. If most French people don’t want Le Pen, they’ll even vote for a half-Jewish homosexual.”
Some Jews vote for Le Pen or even for the more extremist candidate, Éric Zemmour. “The Jewish community wouldn’t officially support these candidates. There are undeniably antisemitic elements in Le Pen’s party and among her supporters. On the other hand, Jews are feeling the heat. They’re afraid. They’re being attacked on the streets on a daily basis and they feel that Le Pen, or possibly a more extremist candidate, may help them deal with the Muslim problem, which is partly anti-Jewish. I understand why they vote for her, but you just can’t ignore the antisemitic voices coming from her supporters.“
Will Gabriel Attal’s Jewish background play a role? “It’s not discussed much in the media but his name is Gabriel Attal and, whether he likes it or not, he’ll be labeled a Jew. Even if he’s not connected to the Jewish community, he’ll always be reminded of it. His Jewish background could work for him or it could work against him. We’ll have to see how things go. There have been thousands of antisemitic incidents since October 7, some reported, others not. It’ll be interesting to see if he addresses it and draws closer to the Jewish community. For French Jewry, this will be his test.“
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