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French press review 7 December 2017


Analysis of the implications of yesterday's decision by US President Donald Trump to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. And a look at what the average French voter has been making of the first seven months of the Macron presidency.

Le Figaro gives the top of the front page to Donald Trump for his decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The move has been widely criticised.

Iran is already predicting a new Palestinian uprising. There is a call for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council. The right-wing daily describes the Palestinian reaction as one of shock, Trump's decision being seen as the definitive end of the 1994 Oslo peace process.

Le Figaro says yesterday's decision to change decades of American policy and international diplomacy is a dangerous calculation. The US gesture will either provide the shock required to get the almost embalmed peace process moving again or it will cause an already smouldering situation to burst into flames.

The right-wing paper also wonders if the US can continue to play the role of honest broker in the Middle Eastern situation, having so dramatically aligned itself with the Israeli position.

Palestinians stunned but not surprised

Le Monde says yesterday's announcement came as no surprise to most Palestinians, already convinced that Washington has never viewed the Arab-Israeli conflict impartially.

The centrist paper fears that the US decision will weaken American allies in the region.

And this despite the fact that the paper devotes reams of text to attempting to analyse the opaque and highly personalised relationship Trump has established with Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, first in line behind the current king.

The suggestion is that yesterday's gesture by Washington is an echo of the Saudi effort under bin Salman to move towards a more moderate vision of Islam. Here are two leaders, this scenario suggests, who are prepared to risk conflict and criticism in the effort to make progress on a situation that has been stalled for decades.

"I have complete confidence in the Saudi royal family," Trump has tweeted, "they know exactly what they want."

And Mohammed Ben Salman has described the US leader as the right man in the right place.

Jury still out on Macron's first months in power

Nobody believes in opinion polls any more but newspaper editors keep churning out the results as if they were divine revelation.

The latest plunge into the heart and mind of the average Frenchperson is in Le Monde, and it is a bit special, because it's based on 20,000 responses, not the usual sample of 1,000 or so. And these people, who contributed to a vast selfie of the republic between 2015 and this year, are being followed up for a sort of after-sales check, seven months after the election of Emmanuel Macron and his fellow marchers.

Le Monde says the predominant attitude to the new administration is prudent expectation.

I'll give you just a couple of key findings:

  • Of the original 20,000 volunteers, only 12,875 could be tracked down for the purposes of the latest study. You have to wonder what happened to the missing 7,000. Did they die, or emigrate, or have they so lost faith in opinion polls that they simpy refused to cooperate? A mystery.
  • Of the survivors, still a respectable slice of French society, 23 percent feel  Macron is doing a good job, 31 percent think he's a flop, leaving a huge intermediate bloc, 46 percent, who can't decide one way or the other. In the first poll, seven months ago, the he's-a-flop camp represented a tiny 13 percent.
  • About half those interviewed describe themselves as satisfied with their current lives; far fewer, just 29 percent, are satisfied when they look to the future.

Le Monde says most people are still waiting for the plans and programmes of the new administration to have an impact. They remain patient. The crucial question is, for how long?