Three Main Reasons Why France is Shifting Its Stance on Israel’s War on Gaza – ANALYSIS

French President Emmanuel Macron. (Photo: Kremlin, via Wikimedia Commons)

By Palestine Chronicle Editors

Less than three months ago, the French government was calling for an ISIS-like alliance against Hamas. Now, France is saying that Israel does not have the right to determine the future of Gaza. What gives?

Something happened between France’s initial statement on October 24, which showed total support for Israel, and the latest statement by French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna on Friday, criticizing Israel’s actions in Gaza.

The first impression is that over three months of relentless Israeli genocide in the Gaza Strip were enough for France to develop a moral position, thus demanding a ceasefire. 

But this cannot be the case, for two reasons:

One, morality is hardly an issue in French foreign policy, which is exclusively based on economic interests, regional alliances and geopolitical calculations. 

Two, Paris must have known the extent of the Israeli genocide in Gaza, if it were not through the genocidal language used by Israeli politicians, then by the thousands of dead Palestinians and mass destruction, which occurred immediately after Tel Aviv’s declaration of war.  

What was the French position then?

France strongly supported the Israeli war immediately after it was launched. This support continued unhindered even after it was clear that the Israeli war was mostly targeting innocent civilians. 

On October 24, Macron visited Israel, telling his Israeli counterpart, Isaac Herzog, that he stood “shoulder to shoulder” with Israel and vowed France’s “full support” for Tel Aviv’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip. 

He went even further, suggesting the need for an international alliance against Hamas, similar to the international alliance formed against ISIS in 2014. 

“France is ready for the coalition, which is fighting in Iraq and Syria against ISIS, to also fight against Hamas,” Macron told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

This means that, unlike the US, which aimed at reducing regional tensions, Macron wanted to do the exact opposite, namely regional escalation, with the hope of compensating for France’s geopolitical losses in West Africa and the Sahel region, by appearing as a global leader. 

Even worse, Macron agreed to the outlandish Israeli statements, like those of Netanyahu, that, indeed, ‘Hamas is ISIS’. 

What is the French position now?

Yet, on Friday, January 5, French Foreign Minister Colonna made the strongest statement by France since the start of the war.

“We need to return to the principle of international law and respect it,” said Colonna, adding that “it’s not up to Israel to determine the future of Gaza, which is Palestinian land.”

Her statement coincided with the news that French and Jordanian air forces had dropped seven tons of urgent humanitarian and medical aid for a field hospital in Khan Yunis, in southern Gaza.

How can the French shift in position be explained?

There are several explanations that can be offered as to why the French government is attempting to distance itself from the Israeli genocide in Gaza and the US-led support of this genocide. 

They include: 

One, Yemeni Ansrallah’s strategic move to target any ship coming or going to Israel as ultimately disrupting traffic in the Red Sea, through one of the world’s busiest commercial waterways, Bab Al-Mandab.

Ansarallah’s decision is directly linked to the Israeli genocide in Gaza, a war that France, like Washington, has wholeheartedly supported.

Even though France had agreed to the US’ ‘Operation Prosperity Guardian’ – to supposedly protect Red Sea shipping – it insisted that it will do so under its own military command, and that it will not participate in any US-led military action against Ansarallah in Yemen. 

This is a very significant reason that could explain part of the shift in Paris’ position, as France is heavily reliant on Bab Al-Mandab for much of its trade with Asia and parts of the Middle East. 

Two, France’s close alliances with Arab countries. 

Unlike Washington, Paris’ diplomacy in the Middle East is not predicated on military action per se, although it was involved, in various capacities, in the US’ so-called war on terror, the anti-ISIS alliance and so on.

Paris attempts to present itself as a softer version of the militant American approach to diplomacy, through building strong political links, and appearing to be, though superficially, more balanced in its approach to the so-called Arab-Israeli conflict. 

Moreover, France often attempts to manipulate the Iran-Arab rift, in addition to the rift in Lebanon between the Resistance group Hezbollah and the other pro-France political forces in the country. 

The Israeli genocide in Gaza has unmistakably, and possibly irreversibly – in the medium and long terms – empowered all Resistance forces in the Middle East, and strengthened Iran’s geopolicial position at the expense of Paris’ traditional Arab allies.

Macron must have understood this and he is trying to backtrack on the strong pro-Israel position his government has adopted for over three months.

The fact that the air dropping of medical aid to a hospital in Khan Yunis, in southern Gaza, on Friday, took place through coordination with King Abdullah II, further illustrates the point that France is trying to pacify its allies, not necessarily score points with the Palestinians themselves. 

Three, social instability in France. 

French society is anything but docile, and various social and political issues tend to overlap. 

If Washington’s support for Tel Aviv is now becoming a major concern for the Biden Administration in the upcoming presidential elections, we can imagine how the Israeli genocide in Gaza would be even more relevant as an internal social and political issue in French society. 

Many progressive forces in France have often perceived Palestine as a major issue in their struggle for justice and equality. These forces have been very active in recent months and years, protesting against various issues, spanning from the extension of retirement age, to welfare cuts, to growing unemployment. 

Coupled with the estimated five million French Muslims, who are also active within these circles, Gaza has become a daily issue for French society, who never ceased protesting, demanding a ceasefire since the early days of the war. 

Macron understands that, due to the political fragility of his government, in fact of his own position, he cannot afford prolonging these protests, which could evolve and overlap with other issues.

The political shift in France could be significant if it remains consistent and, in fact, develops into a stronger political stance that goes beyond rhetoric, into action. 

It must be restated, however, that the Elysee’s position is bereft of morality, and is purely based on interests and nothing else.

(The Palestine Chronicle)

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