Sarkozy’s Unintended Comparison

When’s a comparison not a comparison? When you don’t intend it to be one.

From Haaretz, on French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s recent meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:

Sarkozy then advised Netanyahu to fire [Foreign Minister Avigdor] Lieberman andbring former foreign minister Tzipi Livni back into the coalition,according to the report. Netanyahu reportedly told Sarkozy thatLieberman came across differently in private than his publicappearances would suggest.

French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen also comes across as anice person in private, Sarkozy reportedly responded, to whichNetanyahu replied that Lieberman was not Le Pen and that there was nobasis for comparison. Sarkozy then responded that he did not intend tocompare.

Threecomments: First, that’s not the first time I’ve heard that Jean MarieLe Pen, leader of the far-right Front National, is a very engaging guywhen not doing his best to provoke racial, ethnic and nationalistanimosity. The other source was an African-born, French-based rappernamed Rost, who interviewed every first-round candidate in the 2007presidential election as part of a campaign to mobilize young voters inthe “banlieues.” He said that with one exception, Le Pen was the mostauthentic, the most straightforward, and — curiously enough — themost comfortable discussing the problems facing the banlieue of themall. Apparently, he’s also aself-taught erudite who possesses thousands of rare and precious books,including NapoleanBonaparte’s annotated copy of The Prince.

Second, no matterhow nice Avigdor Lieberman might be in private, I don’t get the sensehe makes the same sort of impression as even Le Pen does. Case inpoint: Lieberman’s office at the foreign ministry put out a call forall political bodies, regardless of political stance, to condemnSarkozy’s “callous attack” in Israel’s domestic affairs. So far, theresponse has been a deafening silence.

Third, all jokes aside,given Le Pen’s well-known flirtations with anti-Semitism and Holocaustrevisionism, Sarkozy’s remark was either typically impulsive or else invery poor taste.

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