The new French President Nicolas Sarkozy's proposal to form a Mediterranean Union, which will include also the Arabs states in the region and Israel, has received no attention in the media here. As someone who has called for an increasing role for the European Union in the Middle East and Israeli accession into the EU, I'm very interested in Sarkozy's idea. According to the IHT:
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is also on Sarkozy's mind. In his speech Sunday, he described the Mediterranean as the region "where everything is being played out." He added: "We must surmount all the hatreds to make space for a great dream of peace and civilization."
In Israel, where Sarkozy's Toulon speech was circulated in diplomatic circles, the reaction was also positive. When Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres called Sarkozy on Monday to congratulate him on his election victory, he said that the idea of a Mediterranean Union was "very important" and that he was interested in discussing it further, diplomatic sources said.
A senior Israeli diplomat, who declined to be identified, said: "My feeling is that there is every reason to believe that Israel would be interested in this because it gives us another opportunity to have a dialogue with countries that we sometimes have difficulties holding a dialogue with."
It seems to me that Washington, as I proposed in my writings, is going to gradually disengage from the Mideast. The mess in Iraq is just going to increase the pressure to lower U.S. profile in the region. So this will be a perfect time for France and the EU to play a more activist role in their own "strategic backyard." Bonne Chance, Sarko!