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French expats elect Israeli woman to France’s National Assembly

JTA

June 18, 2012 | 10:42 am

French expats from eight Mediterranean countries elected a Tel Aviv woman to represent them in the French parliament.

Daphna Poznanski-Benhamou of the Socialist Party received 7,584 votes in the second round of elections for the eighth constituency for French residents overseas, which took place Sunday. The constituency is made up of French citizens living in Israel, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Malta, Cyprus, the Vatican and San Marino.

“I was very warmly received in Turkey and elsewhere before and during the campaign,” Poznanski-Benhamou said. “The only times my Israeli identity became an issue were in Israel.”

Of 577 seats in France’s National Assembly, 11 are reserved for representatives of expats. Each elected lawmaker represents expats from countries bundled into one region, or overseas constituency.

Concerns that Israeli-French relations will deteriorate under French President Francois Hollande, a Socialist, are “unjustified,” Poznanski-Benhamou said.

“The Socialist Party has many currents, some pro-Israeli, some less,” she said.

Poznanski-Benhamou won the election with 55 percent of a total of 13,571 votes cast in the entire constituency. However, 58 percent of the 3,092 votes cast in Israel went to her rival, Valerie Hoffenberg of the UMP party.

Hoffenberg, a Jewish woman of North African descent, was special envoy to the Middle East peace process under former President Nicolas Sarkozy.

In March, the president of CRIF, the umbrella organization representing French Jewish communities, wrote that a Socialist presidential victory might strengthen anti-Israel attitudes.

The French Foreign Affairs Parliamentary Committee in January published a report accusing Israel of “apartheid” in how it distributes water in the West Bank. The author was Jean Glavany, a Socialist lawmaker and ex-minister.

“I tried to help block that report. I oppose such views and will continue to do so in parliament,” Poznanski-Benhamou said.

Married with three children, Poznanski-Benhamou is a lawyer specializing in French administrative rights. The Algeria native moved to France before immigrating to Israel in 1979. She has Israeli and French citizenship.

She may be the first Israeli citizen to be elected to the French National Assembly; the French Embassy in Tel Aviv would not confirm it.

“It is irrelevant whether Ms. Poznanski-Benhamou is an Israeli citizen because she was elected as a French citizen,” the embassy’s press attache, Eve Benhamou, told JTA.

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