New Political Pressures Push US, Europe to Stop Israel-Gaza Conflict

BRUSSELS — A diplomatic flurry from the White House and Europe added pressure on Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza on Wednesday to halt their 10-day-old conflict before it turned into a war entangling more of the Middle East.

President Biden spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel — their second phone call in three days — telling the Israeli leader he “expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a cease-fire,” administration officials said. Although they portrayed the call as consistent with what Mr. Biden had been saying, his decision to set a deadline was an escalation.

And in Europe, France and Germany, both strong allies of Israel that had initially held back from pressuring Mr. Netanyahu in the early days of the conflict, intensified their push for a cease-fire.

French diplomats sought to advance their proposed United Nations Security Council resolution that would call on the antagonists to stop fighting and to allow unfettered humanitarian access to Gaza. It remained unclear on Wednesday if the United States, which has blocked all Security Council attempts to even issue a statement condemning the violence, would go along with the French resolution.

Twitter post afterward, he said, “I especially appreciate the support of our friend @POTUS Joe Biden, for the State of Israel’s right to self-defense.”

confronted Mr. Biden during his trip to a Ford plant, and pleaded with him to address the growing violence in the region and protect Palestinian lives.

Representative Debbie Dingell of Michigan, who witnessed that interaction, said in an interview on Wednesday that Mr. Netanyahu’s reluctance to negotiate a cease-fire had made it harder for Democrats across the political spectrum to defend Israel’s actions.

Some saw the second phone call between Mr. Biden and Mr. Netanyahu as messaging to placate domestic constituents.

Democrats have been pushing Mr. Biden “to take a tougher line and this was his opportunity to demonstrate that he is doing so,” said Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington group that supports Mr. Netanyahu’s policies. He also said Mr. Netanyahu “does not want to give the impression that he’s been told to end this conflict before it’s the right time to do so.”

For European nations, the intensified push for a cease-fire also is based partly on political calculations.

pro-Palestinian demonstrations have sometimes turned into anti-Israeli protests and anti-Semitic attacks, including assaults on synagogues. Governments fear such protests and internal violence will worsen the longer the conflict lasts.

France is on alert for acts of Islamist terrorism, often from French-born Muslims outraged by events in the Middle East. Germany, which welcomed a million mostly Muslim migrants in 2015, is struggling to contain their anger about Israel.

At the same time, the election of Mr. Trump in 2016 also encouraged a right-wing European populism that is anti-immigration and often anti-Islamic, with a clear political identification with “Judeo-Christian values” and strong support for Israel. That is clear in France, with the far-right party of Marine Le Pen, as well as in Germany, with the far-right Alternative for Germany party.

Hugh Lovatt, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Up until now at least, there also had been a gradual de-emphasis of the Palestinian issue by governments, said Kristina Kausch, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund.

She attributed that de-emphasis partly to Israel’s shelved plans to annex the occupied West Bank, which Palestinians want as part of their own ambitions for an independent state, and to the 2020 Abraham Accords, Israel’s normalization of ties with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan, all big defenders of Palestinian rights. Ms. Kausch said there had been a sense that “the Palestinian cause can be put on the back burner, that Arab countries and people don’t care anymore.”

But this new outbreak, Ms. Kausch said, had shown “that the Palestinian cause is alive and kicking.” And no longer ignorable, at least for a while.

Julien Barnes-Dacey, director of the Middle East and North Africa program for the European Council on Foreign Relations.

At the beginning of this conflict, he said, the United States and Europe had been “largely sympathetic to the Israeli narrative, willing to give them some space to accomplish their military ambitions.”

similar two-page resolution passed by the Security Council during another fierce Gaza war in January 2009, and on which the United States abstained.

The draft resolution seeks a cessation of hostilities, humanitarian access to Gaza, the condemnation of the rocket barrages and any incitement to violence, the official said.

In Germany, traditional support for Israel and patience with its military campaign appears to be waning.

After speaking with Mr. Netanyahu on Monday, Chancellor Angela Merkel “sharply condemned the continued rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel and assured the prime minister of the German government’s solidarity,” said her spokesman, Steffen Seibert.

But given the many civilian lives lost “on both sides,” Mr. Seibert said, “the chancellor expressed her hope that the fighting will end as soon as possible.”

Mr. Maas, the German foreign minister, said on Tuesday that “ending the violence in the Middle East is the first priority,” followed by political negotiations. But he also blamed Hamas for the escalation.

He appeared to be responding to domestic criticism that the government has been too lenient in the face of pro-Palestinian and sometimes anti-Semitic protests.

The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung commented that Germany should “concentrate on internal affairs and reflect that the ‘welcome culture’ extended to refugees was astoundingly naïve when it came to anti-Semitism.”

The question for Germany now, the paper said, “is how do we teach those for whom a hatred of Israel is in their DNA that Israel’s security is part of their adopted homeland’s raison d’être?”

Steven Erlanger reported from Brussels, and Jim Tankersley and Katie Rogers from Washington. Michael Crowley contributed reporting from Washington.

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New Political Pressures Push U.S. and Europe to Stop Israel-Gaza Conflict

BRUSSELS — A diplomatic flurry from the White House and Europe added pressure on Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza on Wednesday to halt their 10-day-old conflict before it turned into a war entangling more of the Middle East.

President Biden spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel — their second phone call in three days — telling the Israeli leader he “expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a cease-fire,” administration officials said. Although they portrayed the call as consistent with what Mr. Biden had been saying, his decision to set a deadline was an escalation. .

And in Europe, France and Germany, both strong allies of Israel that had initially held back from pressuring Mr. Netanyahu in the early days of the conflict, intensified their push for a cease-fire.

French diplomats sought to advance their proposed United Nations Security Council resolution that would call on the antagonists to stop fighting and to allow unfettered humanitarian access to Gaza. It remained unclear on Wednesday if the United States, which has blocked all Security Council attempts to even issue a statement condemning the violence, would go along with the French resolution.

Twitter post afterward, he said “I especially appreciate the support of our friend @POTUS Joe Biden, for the State of Israel’s right to self-defense.”

confronted Mr. Biden during his trip to a Ford plant, and pleaded with him to address the growing violence in the region and protect Palestinian lives.

Representative Debbie Dingell of Michigan, who witnessed that interaction, said in an interview on Wednesday that Mr. Netanyahu’s reluctance to negotiate a cease-fire had made it harder for Democrats across the political spectrum to defend Israel’s actions.

Some saw the second phone call between Mr. Biden and Mr. Netanyahu as messaging to placate domestic constituents.

Democrats have been pushing Mr. Biden “to take a tougher line and this was his opportunity to demonstrate that he is doing so,” said Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington group that supports Mr. Netanyahu’s policies. He also said Mr. Netanyahu “does not want to give the impression that he’s been told to end this conflict before it’s the right time to do so.”

For European nations, the intensified push for a cease-fire also is based partly on political calculations.

pro-Palestinian demonstrations have sometimes turned into anti-Israeli protests, including attacks on synagogues. Governments fear such protests and internal violence will worsen the longer the conflict lasts.

France is on alert for acts of Islamist terrorism, often from French-born Muslims outraged by events in the Middle East. Germany, which welcomed a million mostly Muslim migrants in 2005, is struggling to contain their anger about Israel.

At the same time, the election of Mr. Trump in 2016 also encouraged a right-wing European populism that is anti-immigration and often anti-Islamic, with a clear political identification with “Judeo-Christian values’’ and strong support for Israel. That is clear in France, with the far-right party of Marine Le Pen, as well as in Germany, with the far-right Alternative for Germany party.

Hugh Lovatt, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Up until now at least, there also had been a gradual de-emphasis of the Palestinian issue by governments, said Kristina Kausch, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund.

She attributed that de-emphasis partly to Israel’s shelved plans to annex the occupied West Bank, which Palestinians want as part of their own ambitions for an independent state, and to the 2020 Abraham Accords, Israel’s normalization of ties with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan, all big defenders of Palestinian rights. Ms. Kausch said there had been a sense that “the Palestinian cause can be put on the back burner, that Arab countries and people don’t care anymore.”

But this new outbreak, Ms. Kausch said, had shown “that the Palestinian cause is alive and kicking.’’ And no longer ignorable, at least for a while.

Julien Barnes-Dacey, director of the Middle East and North Africa program for the European Council on Foreign Relations.

At the beginning of this conflict, he said, the United States and Europe had been “largely sympathetic to the Israeli narrative, willing to give them some space to accomplish their military ambitions.’’

similar two-page resolution passed by the Security Council during another fierce Gaza war in January 2009, and on which the United States abstained.

The draft resolution seeks a cessation of hostilities, humanitarian access to Gaza, the condemnation of the rocket barrages and any incitement to violence, the official said.

In Germany, traditional support for Israel and patience with its military campaign appears to be waning.

After speaking with Mr. Netanyahu on Monday, Chancellor Angela Merkel “sharply condemned the continued rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel and assured the prime minister of the German government’s solidarity,” said her spokesman, Steffen Seibert.

But given the many civilian lives lost “on both sides,” Mr. Seibert said, “the chancellor expressed her hope that the fighting will end as soon as possible.”

Mr. Maas, the German foreign minister, said on Tuesday that “ending the violence in the Middle East is the first priority,’’ followed by political negotiations. But he also blamed Hamas for the escalation.

He appeared to be responding to domestic criticism that the government has been too lenient in the face of pro-Palestinian and sometimes anti-Semitic protests.

The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung commented that Germany should “concentrate on internal affairs and reflect that the ‘welcome culture’ extended to refugees was astoundingly naïve when it came to anti-Semitism.’’

The question for Germany now, the paper said, “is how do we teach those for whom a hatred of Israel is in their DNA that Israel’s security is part of their adopted homeland’s raison d’être?”

Steven Erlanger reported from Brussels, and Jim Tankersley and Katie Rogers from Washington. Michael Crowley contributed reporting from Washington.

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Thousands of French Police Protest in Call for More Protection

PARIS — Declaring that their work has become increasingly dangerous because of the government’s failure to address France’s underlying social problems, thousands of police officers protested in Paris on Wednesday in a show of force that left politicians scrambling.

Police union leaders demanded tougher laws for violence against officers and stiffer sentences against convicted criminals as thousands massed in the rain in front of the National Assembly, issuing warnings to political leaders who were present but were not invited to speak.

“Your presence is an important sign,’’ Fabien Vanhemelryck, the secretary general of Alliance Police, a right-leaning union whose members appeared to dominate the protest, said from a stage next to a giant screen. “It must not be a sign of future elections, but a wake-up call, a sense of responsibility, of change and a return to safety.’’

The protest, organized by 14 police unions, came after the recent killings of an officer and a police employee, even as pressure has been mounting to reform a force often criticized for its brutal tactics and racist behavior.

theme of crime already dominating the political debate a year before the presidential election, the protest drew leaders from nearly all of France’s political parties. The criticism of official policy put the government of President Emmanuel Macron in an awkward situation and threatened to overshadow a rare nugget of good news on Wednesday, as restaurants and cafes partially reopened nationwide after months of pandemic restrictions.

Gérald Darmanin — the powerful interior minister and head of the national police — joined the demonstration as officers called out to him, “We need your help.’’

In a rare instance of a minister joining a demonstration critical of his own government, Mr. Darmanin said he was simply expressing his solidarity while political rivals said he was effectively protesting against himself. Mr. Darmanin has spearheaded the government’s efforts to fend off a challenge from Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader and Mr. Macron’s main challenger.

issue of crime has directly affected the fortunes of French politicians and parties in the past two decades, and is expected to do so again in the coming months, as France tries to pull itself out of the ravages caused by the pandemic. On Wednesday, some political figures on the left joined the protest and talked tough on crime, even though the government’s statistics do not show the kind of criminality conjured by politicians.

Fabien Jobard, a political scientist specializing on the police.

Protesters began by paying hommage to Eric Masson, an officer killed in the southern city of Avignon during an antidrug operation, and Stéphanie Monfermé, a police employee killed in a terrorist attack at a police station in the city of Rambouillet, near Paris.

The number of police officers injured while on duty has nearly doubled in the past 15 years, jumping from 3,842 in 2004 to 6,760 in 2019, during a year marked by violent Yellow Vest protests, according to figures from the interior ministry.

Mr. Macron has recently stepped up efforts to respond to police concerns. He pledged to recruit 10,000 additional police officers by the end of his current five-year term and went on a ride-along with officers in a drug-dealing area of the city of Montpellier.

pushing back on proposals to reform their methods, such as banning chokeholds, and to open themselves up to greater scrutiny for racism. Police unions also recently broke off monthslong talks with the government on potential reforms.

Controversies over deadly and brutal police interventions sparked widespread protests against the police last year. A contentious security law empowering the police drew thousands of protesters to the street as video footage revealed the brutal beating of a Black music producer, Michel Zecler, inside his own Paris studio by officers.

recent poll showed that 27 percent of respondents said they regarded the police with “anxiety’’ or “hostility.’’

“The police play a very strong role in protecting the political regime in France,” Mr. Jobard, the police expert said, adding that they often “feel that politicians are using them as a firewall, as a shield.”

Despite the intensifying debate on insecurity, crime in France rose in the 1970s through the mid-1980s before declining and stabilizing. Government data show that nearly all major crimes are now lower than they were a decade or three years ago.

France’s per capita homicide rate — 1.16 per 100,000 people in 2018 — was about the same as most parts of Britain, according to data from the European Commission, while Germany’s rate was 0.76. France’s rate was far lower than that of the United States, which was five per 100,000 people in 2018, according to F.B.I. data.

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France’s Proposed Climate Law Is Stirring Divisions

The main employers lobby, the Movement of the Enterprises of France, or Medef, which represents France’s biggest corporations, went through the citizens’ group’s proposals line by line, highlighting those considered to be the harshest and recommending softened versions of the text, according to the Journal du Dimanche, a weekly newspaper.

Medef was especially opposed to making “ecocide,” — defined as deliberate and lasting pollution — a crime. Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux, Medef’s president, told a Senate panel that his members worried that it would stigmatize business and penalize economic activity. He said lawmakers, not random citizens, should write laws.

Tougher rules could also hobble companies weakened by the pandemic, François Asselin, president of the Confederation of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, told the panel. “So be careful not to bring them to their knees with too-restrictive measures,” he said.

BASF, a German multinational chemical company and a major producer of pesticides with operations in France, was more blunt. In a post on its website, it singled out recommendations by the citizens panel to reduce pesticides and fertilizer in agriculture, saying they “reflect a profound ignorance of reality.”

“In seeking to re-energize democracy,” BASF added, referring to the citizens’ proposals, “aren’t we running the risk of weakening our democratic institutions and fueling populism?”

The criticism may be having an impact. In the legislation passed by the National Assembly, “ecocide” was changed from being labeled a crime, as proposed by the citizens’ panel, to a civil offense. It could still result in jail time.

The proposal to ban short-haul flights originally barred trips that could be covered by a four-hour train trip. After airlines and airports objected, the rule was scaled back to cover only flights that could be replaced by a rail trip of 2.5 hours — a change that barred only eight routes. A measure that would have made it more difficult pave over empty fields and lots for Amazon-style warehouses now exempts e-commerce companies.

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On the Scrappy Fringes of French Politics, Marine Le Pen Tries to Rebrand

LA TRINITÉ-SUR-MER, France — It was the setting for a straightforward origin story, or so it seemed. Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader aiming to be France’s next president, came to launch her latest campaign in the seaside resort where her firebrand father once announced his own bid for the presidency from the family home.

But the recent trip to the family base at La Trinité-sur-Mer in western France, where Ms. Le Pen posed for selfies with admirers, schmoozed with oystermen and took TV journalists on boat rides, was a critical part of a rebranding effort toward respectability.

Steering the motorboat was Florent de Kersauson, a prominent businessman who, after decades of backing center-right candidates, was switching to Ms. Le Pen’s National Rally. By embracing Mr. de Kersauson, a former senior executive at the telecommunications giant Alcatel, Ms. Le Pen latched on to the kind of establishment figure who could help persuade voters that her party was more than a scrappy, family business. And maybe even assuage doubts about her competence to move into the Élysée Palace.

“The National Rally, formerly the National Front, has gone from being a protest movement to an opposition movement, and is now a government movement,” Ms. Le Pen said.

poor campaign that was marred by an incoherent message and punctuated by a disastrous debate against Mr. Macron.

un-demonize” her party, which has long been associated with the anti-Semitism, xenophobia, Holocaust denialism and colonial nostalgia of Jean-Marie Le Pen, her father and the party’s founder.

Part of that has been an effort to humanize her. A flurry of recent news reports revealed that she loved cats so much she had become a certified breeder, specializing in Bengals and Somalis. The photos of her posing with the cuddly felines were visual evidence that the party no longer belonged to her father, known for his fondness of menacing Dobermans.

general national decline, Mr. Lebourg said.

Mr. Macron has also been bogged down in a series of crises, including the Yellow Vest movement. Attacks in recent months have also heightened fears of terrorism and accelerated Mr. Macron’s shift to the right to fend off Ms. Le Pen.

“I think I can win,” Ms. Le Pen said in an hourlong interview inside her office at the National Assembly in Paris, where copies of “The Philosopher Cat,” an illustrated volume of feline-themed aphorisms, and a blue binder marked “immigration” and “security” lay on her desk.

local governments that her party controls, mostly in depressed areas in the north and south of France.

In La Trinité-sur-Mer, she introduced Mr. de Kersauson, the former Alcatel executive, as the head of her party’s ticket in next month’s regional elections. Getting more defectors from the center-right — who are financially better off than the National Rally’s traditional backers, but who are also feeling unsettled by the social changes rippling through France — is one key to victory next year.

reported — killed one of her cats.

Ms. Le Pen said that dog was gentle, as had been her father’s Dobermans. “We shouldn’t indulge in caricatures,” she said. “Dobermans have a vicious image, but, in fact, they’re very gentle dogs.”

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Macron Condemns Napoleon’s Restoration of Slavery

PARIS — President Emmanuel Macron of France, charting a delicate course between condemnation and celebration of Napoleon Bonaparte on the 200th anniversary of his death, said the emperor’s restoration of slavery in 1802 was a “mistake, a betrayal of the spirit of the Enlightenment.”

It was the first time a French president had specifically condemned Napoleon’s re-establishment of slavery in the Caribbean, after its post-revolutionary abolition in 1794. Mr. Macron used the word “faute,” which in French carries greater solemnity and opprobrium than “mistake” or “error” in English, something closer to an offense.

France, the only country to have ended and reinstated slavery, did not abolish slavery again until 1848. This painful history has tended to be eclipsed for many by the magnetism of the epic Bonapartist saga, which Mr. Macron described as “above all, an ode to political will.” He continued: “Without him the destiny of France would not have been the same.”

Mr. Macron’s comments came as France engages in a debate, encouraged by the president, about its colonial past, and whether the country’s universalist model, which is supposed to be colorblind, in reality masks widespread racism.

Mémoires et Partages, an organization that campaigns for a more complete reckoning with France’s colonial and slaveholding past, said that he supported the commemorations but lamented what he saw as a poor acknowledgment of Napoleon’s racism.

“I am in favor of the government commemorating Napoleon but it has a duty to say that Napoleon was a racist and this was not sufficiently apparent in Macron’s speech, who used words that were too vague,” Mr. Diallo said.

Mr. Macron spoke under one dome, at the home of the Académie Française, representing the revered quintessence of French learning, before proceeding to Napoleon’s tomb beneath the golden dome of Les Invalides. There, in a solemn ceremony, he laid a wreath of red and white flowers, before the Marseillaise was sung.

“Napoleon, in his conquests, never really cared about the loss of human life,” Mr. Macron said. “Since then, we have come to place a higher value on human life, whether in wars or pandemics.”

Millions of lives were lost as Napoleon sought to spread the anticlerical, anti-monarchical message of the French Revolution across the continent before his final defeat in 1815. That he did so as self-proclaimed emperor is only one of the many contradictions of his tempestuous life.

Mr. Macron’s speech followed the pattern he has adopted in confronting difficult passages of French history, including the Algerian war of independence: full and candid acknowledgment without repentance. It was also typical of a leader whose tendency to balance different sides of an argument is so marked that he has become known as the “at-the-same-time” president.

The president’s most serious challenger in the election next year is Marine Le Pen, the rightist leader. She chose to commemorate the anniversary with the words: “Long live the Emperor! Long live greatness!”

Mr. Macron is a centrist, but one most concerned for now by the need to head off the appeal of the extreme right. “One loves Napoleon because his life has the allure of the possible, because it is an invitation to take risks,” he said. He continued: “His life was an epiphany of freedom. Eagle and ogre, Napoleon could be at once the soul of the world and the demon of Europe.”

Napoleon has always been a contested figure in France, even in the perpetual fascination he has exerted, to the point that recent presidents have shied away from honoring him. But that is not Mr. Macron’s style.

At a moment of tense cultural confrontation over whether French universalism masks racism, he condemned Napoleon’s resort to slavery in the Caribbean in newly forthright terms, while also lauding the achievements of a national hero.

The French legal code, lycée school system, central bank and centralized administrative framework are part of Napoleon’s legacy.

But Mr. Diallo said that France’s universalist model was still “locked into a denial” over racial issues, unable to fully acknowledge that the country had for decades promoted racist policies and slavery.

“Napoleon is the man who gave shape to our political and administrative organization, to the uncertain sovereignty that emerged from the Revolution,” Mr. Macron said. “After months of failure, with France besieged, Napoleon was able to incarnate order.”

Constant Méheut contributed reporting.

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With Napoleon Commemoration, Macron Steps Into National Debate

PARIS — Jacques Chirac couldn’t stand him. Nicolas Sarkozy kept his distance. François Hollande shunned him. But on the 200th anniversary this week of Napoleon Bonaparte’s death, Emmanuel Macron has chosen to do what most recent presidents of France have avoided: honor the man who in 1799 destroyed the nascent French Republic in a putsch.

By choosing to lay a wreath Wednesday at Napoleon’s tomb under the golden dome of Les Invalides, Mr. Macron is stepping into the heart of France’s culture wars. Napoleon, always a contested figure, has become a Rorschach test for the French at a moment of tense cultural confrontation.

Was Napoleon a modernizing reformer whose legal code, lycée school system, central bank, and centralized administrative framework laid the basis for post-revolutionary France? Or was he a retrograde racist, imperialist, and misogynist?

By paying his respects to Napoleon, Mr. Macron will please a restive French right dreaming of lost glory and of a moment when, under its turbulent emperor, France stood at the center of the world. The French obsession with the romantic epic of Napoleon’s rise and fall is undying, as countless magazine covers and talk shows have underscored in recent weeks.

Mr. Macron is taking a risk. Officials close to him have portrayed his planned speech as an attempt to look Napoleon “in the face,” light and shadow. Others, however, insist Napoleon should be condemned rather than commemorated.

“How can we celebrate a man who was the enemy of the French Republic, of a number of European peoples, and also the enemy of humanity in that he was an enslaver?” Louis-Georges Tin, an author and activist, and Olivier Le Cour Grandmaison, a political scientist, wrote last month in Le Monde.

particularly in Algeria, and a vigorous debate has begun on whether the country’s purportedly colorblind universalist model masks widespread racism.

Josette Borel-Lincertin, the Socialist president of the departmental council in Guadeloupe, told Le Monde that her community would not participate in tributes to Napoleon, whom every Guadeloupian knows reestablished slavery. “We can only send from this side of the ocean the echo of our pain,” she said.

a letter last month from 20 retired generals that described France as being in a state of “disintegration” and warned of a possible coup. Marine Le Pen, the rightist leader who is the strongest challenger to Mr. Macron in next year’s presidential election, applauded it.

This is the delicate context of Mr. Macron’s tribute to a man who came to power in a coup. On May 9, he will mark Europe Day, a celebration of unity in the Europe that Napoleon reduced to the carnage perhaps best captured by Goya’s depiction of an execution in “El Tres de mayo.” The next day, May 10, Mr. Macron will commemorate the law passed in 2001 that recognized slavery as a crime against humanity.

Gabriel Attal, the government spokesman, said: “To commemorate is to have your eyes wide open on our history and look it in the face. Even with respect to choices that today look questionable.”

Mr. Macron’s choice is both political and personal. With the left in tatters, his main challenge is from the right, so laying a wreath at Napoleon’s tomb is also a way to counter Ms. Le Pen. But his own fascination with Napoleon — like him, a young provincial upstart who came to power from nowhere with a mission to remake France and change Europe — has long been evident in his recurrent musings on France’s need for “renewed ambition and audacity.”

“Macron is Rastignac,” said Nicole Bacharan, a political scientist, alluding to the hero of a Balzac novel who conquers Paris with his charm and guile. “And in the literary, political, strategic, military and intellectual range of Napoleon he finds a source of inspiration.” So, too, in the fact that France was then “the center of the world, for better or worse.”

Mr. Macron took former President Donald Trump to Napoleon’s crypt in 2017 — French presidents have tended to avoid accompanying foreign leaders there because Hitler paid homage to Napoleon at Les Invalides in 1940. If this was a history lesson, it had mixed results. “Napoleon finished a little bad,” was Mr. Trump’s summation.

A president born after the trauma of the Algerian war of independence, Mr. Macron wants to confront difficult history because he believes that openness will heal. This determination has prompted much-needed debate, even within his own government.

Elisabeth Moreno, the minister of equalities in France, has called Napoleon “one of the great misogynists.” The Napoleonic Code, long since amended, said “a woman owes obedience to her husband,” not an uncommon view at the time.

François-René de Chateaubriand, the 19th-century French writer and diplomat, observed of Napoleon that, “Living, he failed the world. Dead, he conquered it.” Something in his extraordinary orbit from imperial glory to the windswept island of his death will not let the French imagination be. The reason may be Napoleon’s hard-earned realism, as expressed on St. Helena to his secretary, Emmanuel de Las Cases.

“Revolution is one of the greatest ills with which the heavens can afflict the earth,” Napoleon told his aide. “It is the scourge of the generation that makes it; any gains it procures cannot offset the distress it spreads through life. It enriches the poor, who are not satisfied; it impoverishes the rich, who will never forget it. It overturns everything, makes everyone unhappy, and procures happiness for nobody.”

For Napoleon, as for all human beings, it proved impossible to escape the times he lived in.

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France Plots a Path Out of Lockdown

President Emmanuel Macron of France outlined plans on Thursday for the gradual reopening of the country, starting with the reopening of all schools next week, followed by the return of museums, cinemas, shops and outdoor service at cafes on May 19. The 7 p.m. curfew will be pushed back to 9 p.m., he told French newspapers.

“We must recover our French art of living, while remaining prudent and responsible: our conviviality, our culture, sports,” Mr. Macron said, though he added that the reopening in some regions might be delayed if cases rise.

Cafes and restaurants will be allowed to serve patrons inside starting the second week of June, and gyms will also reopen then under certain conditions such as limited number of people. The nighttime curfew and most restrictions on gatherings will be lifted on June 30.

Europe has experienced a significant downturn in coronavirus cases after two months of surging infections. The World Health Organization’s chief European official on Thursday cautioned that infection rates across the region remained high.

vaccinations ramp up, European governments are rolling back restrictions on social gatherings. Britain, which has led the region’s vaccine rollout, has allowed pubs, bars and restaurants to reopen outdoors and is progressively lifting limits on the size of social gatherings.

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France Arrests Former Members of Italian Extremist Group

PARIS — The French police on Wednesday arrested seven former members of Italian left-wing extremist groups who had been convicted of terrorism crimes in Italy decades ago, but were given refuge in France.

A court will now decide if the militants, arrested at the request of the Italian authorities, can be extradited to Italy, a decision that could take several years depending on appeals.

Dozens of Italian leftist extremists were given refuge in France decades ago by the socialist government at the time if they agreed to renounce violence, a move that long poisoned the diplomatic relationship between France and Italy.

The government’s announcement of the arrests on Wednesday signaled an easing of that troubled relationship, with Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy and President Emmanuel Macron of France managing to establish closer ties in recent months.

Lotta Continua, which translates as “Continuous Struggle,” was also detained in France. Mr. Pietrostefani was sentenced to 22 years in prison for murdering the police chief of Milan, Luigi Calabresi, in 1972.

François Mitterrand, the former socialist president of France, instituted a policy in the 1980s when he was in office of granting asylum to leftist Italian militants — much to the anger of the Italian government, which requested their extradition — providing they renounced violence and were not wanted in Italy for murder or other “crimes of blood.” Some of the militants, like Mr. Pietrostefani, however, had been implicated in such crimes.

One of the beneficiaries of the so-called Mitterrand Doctrine who was arrested on Wednesday was Marina Petrella, a former Red Brigades member who fled to France in 1993 after being convicted of involvement in several murders.

In 2008, President Nicolas Sarkozy rejected a request from the Italian government to extradite Ms. Petrella, citing humanitarian reasons as her health was deteriorating. The refusal provoked outrage in Italy and revived dormant tensions between the two countries.

The French presidency said in its statement Wednesday that the arrests “fall strictly within the framework of the Mitterrand doctrine, since they are blood crimes.”

In 2019, Matteo Salvini, Italy’s interior minister at the time, said that he would “appeal to the French president to return to Italy some fugitives who do not deserve to drink champagne under the Eiffel Tower, but deserve to rot in jail in Italy.”

strategic alliance with Mr. Macron at the European level and Wednesday’s decision testified to this new working relationship.

Marta Cartabia, Italy’s justice minister, said she met with her French counterpart, Éric Dupond-Moretti, and that he had shown a “particular sensitivity” to the case and “decisive will to cooperate.”

Mr. Dupond-Moretti said he hoped the arrests “will allow Italy to turn a bloody and tearful page of its history after 40 years.”

Benedetta Tobagi, an Italian journalist and daughter of Walter Tobagi, a reporter who was killed in 1980 by a left-wing terrorist brigade, welcomed the decision in an editorial in the Italian daily La Repubblica on Wednesday.

But she added, “the anomaly is not the arrests, but the unreasonable persistence of the Mitterrand doctrine, the fact that it took so many years, and so much effort, to unblock the situation.”

Gaia Pianigiani contributed reporting from Rome.

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