No Change Seen in France’s Mideast Policy Following the Second Round of Municipal Elections

French Middle East policy is expected to be unchanged despite the possibility that President Francois Mitterrand may reshuffle his Socialist government in the aftermath of yesterday’s second round of municipal elections.

The Socialists recovered some of the losses they sustained in the March 6 elections. But while senior Cabinet ministers retained their offices as mayors of some major cities, the fact that they had to face run-off elections and in a few cases won by narrow margins indicated a lack of confidence by the electorate. This has led most observers to believe Mitterrand will appoint a new government shortly.

Among the ministers who may be replaced are Prime Minister Pierre Mauroy, who was re-elected Mayor of Lille, and Foreign Minister Claude Cheysson. A large section of the French Jewish community blames Cheysson for what they see as “an unfriendly attitude” toward Israel. But French sources stress that Cheysson only carries out Mitterrand’s policies.

Nevertheless, a frequently mentioned possible successor to Cheysson in a new government is Jacques Attali, an Algerian-born Jew who is a special advisor to the President and is active in Jewish organizations. Foreign policy, however, is, under the French Constitution, the “reserved domain” of the President himself. The Foreign Minister, whoever he may be, is not a policy-maker but an implementer of policy.

The Socialists were shaken by the landslide victory of Jacques Chirac, the neo-Gaullist Mayor of Paris whose re-election yesterday was the most dramatic gain by the right. On the other hand, Socialist Gaston Defferre, the Minister of Interior, was re-elected to a sixth term as Mayor of Marseilles, France’s second largest city, where he faced a strong rightwing challenger in a run-off contest.

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