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French press review 15 May 2018

There is a tragic similarity to this morning's front pages, dominated by deadly clashes in Gaza. There's also an interview with French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, as he comes to the end of his first year as President Emmanuel Macron's neither left- nor right-hand man.


"Jerusalem celebrates its American embassy, Gaza laments its dead." That's Le Monde's headline summary of yesterday's events marking the 70th anniversay of the establishment of the Jewish state.

Le Monde says 58 Palestinian protestors were killed.

The centrist paper notes that both South Africa and Turkey have recalled their ambassadors but that Washington continues to support Israel without reserve.

South Africa has condemned "a violent attack by the Israeli armed forces" against people taking part in a peaceful demonstration against the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, which itself, according to Pretoria, constitutes a provocation.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Israel of "state terrorism" and genocide, saying that America has lost all claim to mediate in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim accused Washington and Tel Aviv of being partners in a crime against humanity.

Washington continues to insist that Israel has the "right to defend itself" and that the US remains fully committed to the search for a permanent peace agreement.

US blocks Gaza Security Council call

Le Figaro takes a similar headline approach to Le Monde's with "American embassy in Jerusalem, Gaza in flames".

The right-wing paper speaks of a death toll of at least 55 Palestinians.

Le Figaro also reports that the United States yesterday blocked the adoption by the UN Security Council of a call for an independent inquiry into yesterday's murderous events.

The rejected text included the Security Council's expression of sadness and incomprehension following the deaths of Palestinian civilians who were "exercising their right to peaceful protest".

The same document reaffirmed the council's conviction that no decision bearing on the character, status or population structure of Jerusalem can have any legal status and should be reversed in line with previous Security Council resolutions.

That text, I remind you, was finally vetoed by the United States.

The distance between Jerusalem and Gaza

Left-leaning Libération's main headline reads: "An embassy and a massacre".

The Paris daily says the contrast could not be more striking: between the party atmosphere in Jerusalem, transformed into what the paper calls a "Trumpist Disneyland" to mark the 70th anniversary and the embassy transfer, and the barbed wire, snipers, dead bodies and blood at the border with Gaza.

Two different planets, says Libé, just 90 kilometres apart.

Today, 15 May, is the anniversary of the 1948 expulsion of Palestinians at the establishment of the state of Israel, the "Nakba" or catastrophe.

Trump called yesterday "a great day for Israel". Israeli primier Benjamin Netanyahou said it was "glorious". The Palestinian Authority said it was a massacre.

Ninety kilometres is an enormous distance in the Middle East.

French employee pleased with boss

Le Monde yesterday marked another anniversary by interviewing French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, in the job now for exacly one year.

The government leader says he has complete confidence in the policies of President Emmanuel Macron, promising that the reform programme will continue to be dense until the end of the president's five-year term.

On security, in the wake of Saturday's Paris knife attack, the prime minister praises the police for the speed with which the killer was "neutralised". And he insists that it is better organisation of police and intelligence operations that counts, not wordy additions to the judicial arsenal.

"I greatly distrust those who think that every event calls for a new law," says Edouard Philippe.

Of his own right-wing political background (the prime minister used to be a regional councillor, a mayor and an MP for the mainstream-right UMP now transformed into the Republicans), Philippe says such questions of left and right are no longer relevant. What counts is to work efficiently to get the country moving again after years of stagnation.

Asked to react to the fact that shareholders in the top 40 French companies get 68 percent of the profits while the workers have to settle for five percent, the prime minister says it's no crime to pay investors for their money. The government would like to see more profits trickling down to the the workers, says Philippe, but he's not going to tell companies how to run their affairs.

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