Though his visit ended amid panic, France's Nicolas Sarkozy's first presidential visit to Israel this week made quite an impression. Sarkozy called on the country to stop settlement in the occupied West Bank, saying Mideast peace depends on Israel dropping its refusal to surrender sovereignty over parts of Jerusalem claimed by the Palestinians. As compensation, he assured Israel that it could count on France's support in halting Iran's nuclear program.
Sarkozy praised Israel's democracy and quoted the biblical passage in which God promises the Holy Land to the children of Israel, drawing a mixed review of applause and scowls (from the handful of Arab members). Speaking to parliament he said:
"There cannot be peace without an immediate and complete halt to settlement," he said. "There cannot be peace without recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of two states and the guarantee of free access to the holy places for all religions."
Sarkozy's address follows fluffy weekend coverage of his arrival by the country's newspapers that seemed more preoccupied with his Italian singer First Lady Carla Bruni than his agenda. According to the AP, the front pages of Monday's newspapers were filled with pictures of a smiling Carla "overshadowing her husband." For a preview of their coverage,
The Haaretz daily, which is Israel's oldest daily newspaper, featured a front page close-up of Carla, taken as the couple arrived at Israel's international airport Sunday, with Sarkozy and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the background.
Israel's largest daily, Yediot Ahronot, used the front page headline "Queen Carla" to tease a spread with a collage of her photos and a celebrity style-esque breakdown of her wardrobe — including the $2,500 Prada dress she wore upon arrival, a $1,200 purse and a $650 pair of sandals.