For the third time since he came to power in 2007, French President Nicolas Sarkozy will be Wednesday night the guest of honor at the annual dinner of CRIF, the umbrella representative group of French Jewish organizations.
He will address this major political event which will be attended by around one thousand people, including several members of the government, representatives of both the majority and the opposition, ambassadors – including those of Morocco, Egypt and Turkey, leaders of the Jewish community, Jewish, Catholic and Muslim religious leaders as well as artists.
This year CRIF also invited the Israeli winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize of chemistry, Prof. Dan Shechtman.
The dinner will take place at the Pavillon d'Armenonville, in Paris’s Bois de Boulogne.
The event comes only three months before France’s presidential election. The first round of the election is due on 22 April followed by a run-off vote on 6 May.
While Sarkozy has not yet announced that he is a candidate, even though everyone believes he will run for the UMP ruling conservative party, the Socialist opposition candidate Francois Hollande, who is leading in polls, will be present and is expected to stay during Sarkozy’s speech.
"I will not give any voting instruction," says CRIF President Richard Prasquier. However he believes that Jewish sensitivity "should avoid extreme parties".
Since several years, the Greens and extreme-left parties are not invited to the dinner because of their anti-Israeli position calling for a boycott of Israel. The same for the extreme-right National Front despite attempts by party leader and presidential candidate Marine Le Pen to woo Jewish voters by presenting "a different face."
CRIF maintains that the party is still anti-Semitic despite the fact that Marine Le Pen - polls suggest that she would finish third behind Sarkozy and Hollande in the first round of the elections - succeeded her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who had been condemned for denying the Holocaust with his infamous comments about the gas chambers being a "detail" or a "minor point" of World War II.
In his opening speech, Prasquier is expected to refer to Marine Le Pen’s presence last week at a ball in Vienna along with extreme-right anti-Semitic Austrian politicians. He will also address the crisis in Europe, nuclear Iran, developments of the Arab Spring and anti-Semitism.
Figures released last week showed that anti-Semitic acts in France fell last year by 16.5 %. "But they are more violent both in the words and physically," says Prasquier.
Founded in 1943 in Lyon as part of the resistance to Nazi occupation, CRIF is the Jewish community’s political representation.
About 600,000 Jews live in the country, the largest Jewish community in Western Europe.