Sarkozy and I met six years ago through a mutual friend, Meir Haviv, one of the managers of the umbrella organization of the Jewish community in France. I felt an immediate chemistry between us, and we met many times since, including for dinner in Jerusalem during his recent visit to Israel.
We even met for an hour when I was in Paris several weeks ago, although he was in the midst of an election campaign. The connection between us was created because we see many things eye-to-eye, first and foremost in terms of some of the international perceptions, the social perceptions and the economic perceptions.
Sarkozy has a positive attitude toward Israel and a supportive attitude toward the Jewish people, but he will first and foremost be the president of France.
I don’t think one can expect the French policy to change from one end to the other, but it is clear that it will no longer be characterized by reflexive anti-Israelism – a situation in which Israel is guilty until proven innocent.
I believe that the policy will be much more balanced, and this change will also derive from his attitude toward the United States. This is the first president since World War II who will not be imbued with De Gaulle's attitude, which saw the US as a competitor, as this is a very refreshing change.
In terms of the great battle against radical Islam as well, Sarkozy's election is an important change.
He faces a great task: His election symbolizes the French people's huge desire for reforms – first and foremost in the economy. Sarkozy told me more than once about his plans and desires in terms of these issues.
It is clear that he will have to plan ahead in light of the political reality, but I have no doubt that he wants to renew the face of the French society and economy. He and his people understand that they have no immunity in the face of the globalization process.
I believe he will succeed. We are talking about an extremely determined and strong person. He has a map and a compass to navigate France's road. His election symbolizes a change. For France it is a very big change, for Israel-France relations it is definitely a positive trend.
The writer is the opposition leader and a personal friend of the elected French president
Brought to print by Seffi Hendler