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French press review 15 November 2012

All change in China ... perhaps. Why did Ahmed al-Jaabari die? Is the French left on the ideological run? Is more austerity in Europe feasible? And what Devid Petraeus find out when he visited Benghazi in October?  


Le Figaro gives pride of place to the new man in China, Xi Jinping, as the most populous nation on the planet attempts to juggle rapid economic growth and social change.

Whether the ageing central committee of the Communist Party is the best way of managing any sort of change remains to be seen, but Xi, who replaces Hu Jaobang, at least has relative youth and an openness to the West on his side.

Le Figaro certainly seems to like him better than it likes François Hollande.

Figaro also looks at the assassination by Israeli forces of the Hamas military chief, Ahmed al-Jaabari.

The irony is that this death, which Hamas activists say will open the gates of Hell for Israel, comes after the victim had completed negotiations that brought him closer to the moderate branch of the movement. Le Figaro says the Syrian crisis has dismantled the Damascus-Teheran axis, moving Hamas closer to more moderate Sunni-Muslim countries, like Egypt and Qatar.

The French newspaper suspects that al-Jaabari's death may have been in response to his part in the training of a special Hamas commando unit that could respond to another Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip.

Left-leaning Libération devotes its editorial to an analysis of the French political scene.

It's all very simple: the left won the presidential and parliamentary elections, the right won the ideological battle.

That gives the left a free hand in legislative terms, since it can't lose a parliamentary vote but it also gives the bad-mouthing right enormous power to influence public opinion.

Libération thinks the left needs to show more courage in the face of partisan criticism and not sacrifice political honesty in the quest for peace and serenity. On the currently vexed questions of the vote for non-nationals and the way crime statistics are compiled, the left has, sadly, says Libé, run scared.

The paper also looks at yesterday's anti-austerity demonstrations across Europe.

Tens of thousands of protestors took to the streets of Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece, to mention just the biggest gatherings. The protesters may, after all, be barking up the right tree. The European Central Bank says eurozone growth is likely to be so slight it will feel exactly like recession next year. The International Monetary Fund has warned that current austerity policies are likely to become "politically and socially" impossible.

Which brings me to Le Monde and the Petraeus affair.

What you thought was just another simple case of marital infidelity may turn out to be the mother of all scandals.

David Petraeus, the former head of the CIA, was supposed to testify before a congressional hearing this very Thursday into the events which led to the deaths of four US diplomats in an attack on the American consulate in Benghazi last September.

Because he resigned in the wake of the revelation of his affair with Paula Broadwell, he won't now be heard. Unless Dianne Feinstein, the president of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has her way. She wants to hear what the man himself has to say about his mission to Benghazi at the end of October.

What was he doing there?

Was he trying to cover up the fact that the CIA had imprisoned several local militia leaders in the grounds of the consulate?

Despite the fact that this was in total contravention of a promise made by Barack Obama in January 2009 that there would be no more secret US prisons. Did the diplomats lose their lives because armed groups were trying to free their illegally imprisoned comrades, under cover of a protest against an offensive American film?

As Paula Broadwell's father has grimly predicted, "There's a lot more to this case than anyone knows right now." It may well tun out that adultery is the very least of David Petraeus' problems.

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