Beyond Macron’s ability to curb the trend toward social and political division, heightened by the recent presidential election, France’s new president will be judged according to his performance on three tightly-linked issues: significant economic change, a restored sense of security, and revitalization of the European Union. Political and economic logic forces Macron into close cooperation with Germany, and France and Germany will dominate the EU after the UK’s withdrawal from the organization. A general improvement in the sense of security will have a positive effect on the Jews in France, who are exposed to increasing physical and verbal harassment by nationalistic and Muslim anti-Semitic groups. There are reasonable grounds for optimism about economic recovery, success in the struggle against terrorism, and the strengthening of the moderate liberal center. At the same time, positive outcomes are not assured and depend, more than anything else, on a restoration of confidence among Europeans in the ideas on which the EU is based and the ability of the organization and its member states to provide them with physical and economic security.
Following the presidential elections, the French nation is waking up to a new political reality. At least for now, the old structure of French politics based on two main parties – a socialist Party and a conservative party, the descendant of de Gaulle’s party has been erased. What remains are four ideological currents: liberal capitalist, represented by newly-elected President Emmanuel Macron; extreme right wing, represented by Marine Le Pen; traditional rightist conservative, which after Sarkozy failed to find a charismatic leader; and leftist, represented by outgoing President François Hollande. The results of the presidential elections, 65 percent for Macron and 35 percent for Le Pen, will affect the future of the European Union and Israel’s relations with this important organization.
France’s new President will have to deal with ongoing economic problems, notably a high unemployment rate of 10 percent among the general population and 25 percent among young people; the waves of immigration from Africa and the Middle East; terrorism by Islamic extremists; growing racism, accompanied by anti-Semitism; and most of all, the implications of these problems for the unity of the French people and the future of the European Union. Macron’s large majority over Le Pen cannot conceal the emergence, and not only in France, of an extreme rightist bloc in Europe based on nationalist ideology and fed by both xenophobia and disgust with the European Union. Macron was elected president only because many who did not support his election platform nevertheless voted for him in opposition to Le Pen. This is his strength, but it is also likely to be a future explanation for his disappearance from the political scene in France, which could prove as sudden as his surprising election as president, should he fail to meet his voters’ expectations. The key to his success will therefore be above all healing the rift between the two camps, because despite his victory, Macron cannot ignore the support for Le Pen by a third of the electorate. Beyond his ability to rein in the trend toward division, he will be judged according to his performance on three intertwined issues: significant economic change, a restored sense of security, and revitalization of the European Union.