For the 12 years she has embodied the French far right, Marine Le Pen has tenaciously pursued the same objective: claiming the legacy of Charles de Gaulle. For the heiress of a party whose ideological foundation was anti-Gaullism, the challenge lacks neither audacity nor electoral motives. Le Pen has quoted de Gaulle in debates during the presidential election campaign, sent representatives to put flowers on his grave at Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises on the anniversary of his death, dedicated speeches to him, and chosen authentic nostalgics of Gaullism such as Florian Philippot and Jean-Philippe Tanguy as lieutenants. In an article she wrote in June 2020 in the Revue politique et parlementaire, she praises the “great man” and claims to be the only one to defend his doctrine.
Often, this self-interested conviction is based on the foreign policy of de Gaulle, founder of the Fifth Republic, claiming to make it her own: that France should carry an independent voice, breaking away from the logic of blocs and speaking to all. In the Middle East, de Gaulle notably condemned Israel’s expansionist policy during the Six-Day War in 1967, going against public opinion. Le Pen, however, has always been guided by the fight against radical Islam, ruling out certain regimes – such as Qatar or Saudi Arabia – from being potential partners.
Since the terrorist attacks of October 7, the leader of the far right has been offered a rare opportunity: to be the voice of the Gaullist-Mitterrandian openness to the Arab world, which in the current political landscape, only the Socialists and center-right veterans such as former prime minister Dominique de Villepin and the president of the Assemblée Nationale’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Jean-Louis Bourlanges, seem to support. Eric Ciotti’s right-wing Les Républicains, meanwhile, have aligned themselves with the Israeli government, continuing an Atlanticist trend that started under former president Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007. President Emmanuel Macron has supported Israel’s defense, while sending signals to Arab capitals.
Le Pen could have taken advantage of this context. When she explained her position on the Israel-Hamas war on October 23, from the rostrum of the Assemblée, the leader of the far right pledged her strict adherence to Gaullist doctrine. She deplored the disappearance of France’s role as a “flexible and creative intermediary”: “Why is France’s voice so despairing in this region in particular? It is because its diplomacy has lost sight of the need to maintain its independence, equidistance and constancy.”
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