Bruni steals the limelight on Israeli state visit

IN HIS first presidential visit to Israel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said Israeli-Palestinian peace is immediately attainable, talked tough against Iran’s nuclear program and delivered an address to parliament.

But nobody has seemed to notice. Instead, most of Israel’s attention has been showered on Sarkozy’s glamorous wife, the model-turned-singer Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.

The front pages of yesterday’s newspapers were filled with pictures of a smiling Bruni-Sarkozy overshadowing her husband.

In the Haaretz daily, a close-up of Carla, taken on the first couple’s arrival at Israel’s international airport on Sunday, dominated the front page. Sarkozy and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert meekly appeared in the background.

“Queen Carla,” said a headline on the front page of Yediot Ahronot, Israel’s largest daily. Inside was a two-page spread with a collage of her photos and a breakdown of her wardrobe — including the $2,500 (€1,611) Prada dress she wore upon arrival, a $1,200 purse and a $650 pair of sandals.

The tabloid Israel Hayom crowned her the most beautiful first lady since Jacqueline Kennedy.

Israeli leaders seemed equally impressed. President Shimon Peres blushed and several ministers giggled as she stepped off the plane.

Even the Arabic-language media got in on the fun. The Al-Quds newspaper, the main Palestinian daily, devoted its top left hand photograph, normally devoted to scenes of Palestinian suffering, to Carla walking down stairs in a fitted brown dress.

Meanwhile, Sarkozy yesterday put himself forward as a possible Middle East peace broker, offering in a speech to Israel’s parliament to help reach agreement and mobilise French troops if necessary. “I ask you to trust us because we want to help you,” said Sarkozy.

Since taking office a year ago, Sarkozy has broken rank with his predecessors by repeatedly describing himself as a “friend of Israel”, fostering closer ties with the Jewish state and reiterating that there can be no compromise on its security.

“France is ready to provide its guarantee, ready to mobilise its diplomatic service, its resources, its soldiers,” he said, without specifying what role French troops could play.


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