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Behind the Headlines French Socialists Wooing Jewish Vote

A top level Socialist delegation led by opposition leader Francois Mitterrand is due to visit Israel beginning Oct. 26 and confer with Premier Yitzhak Rabin, Defense Minister Shimon Peres and other top aides.

Political observers in France believe Mitterrand has decided to visit Israel at this particular time in order to try and woo the Jewish electorate in France before the forthcoming municipal elections. Paradoxically, foreign affairs and communal interests traditionally play a far more important role in local elections than in the Presidential race.

Jews still form large electoral blocks in certain quarters of Paris as well as in such cities as Marseilles, Nice and Strasbourg. The Socialist Party, which, according to certain pollsters could carry a majority of seats, is apparently trying to strengthen its backing in these areas. Many Jews, while opposed to the ruling Giscard-Gaullist forces, are nonetheless reluctant to vote for the Socialists because of the alliance with the Communist Party.

JEWS PLAY IMPORTANT ROLE

Besides their numerical importance–there

While the Jewish community, which represents only about one percent of the total population, cannot hope to play an equivalent role to that played by American Judaism in the current Presidential race, it will nonetheless seriously influence the outcome of the struggle for the control of France’s city halls.

The Socialists made a strong play for the Jewish vote at the last Presidential elections in May 1974 but the vote split at the time equally between the left and the center coalition led by Valery Giscard d’Estaing. The Socialists now hope to win a majority of the Jewish vote in the municipal elections which could foreshadow a similar development in the legislative due to be held in 1978. The municipal elections are scheduled for next February.

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