Nicolas Sarkozy is "a friend of Israel," and his victory in France's presidential election on Sunday heralds a more balanced French approach to the Middle East conflict, said Israeli leaders.
Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu, who said he counts Sarkozy among his personal friends, told Israel Radio that the French president-elect "wants to help Israel achieve true peace, and he understands our security needs well."
Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres also expressed satisfaction over Sarkozy's win, and called his idea of a European Union-like treaty in the Middle East "fascinating."
A diplomatic official cited by The Jerusalem Post said Sarkozy's election means that France's attitude toward Israel "is likely to be warmer and more friendly, even when there are disagreements. We are unlikely to see the coldness and the enmity that we saw during (outgoing president Jacque) Chirac's tenure."
Tellingly, Sarkozy garnered about 90 percent of the more than 8,775 votes cast by French expatriates living in Israel.
Hi opponent, Segolene Royal, was more popular with French expatriates living in Arab countries.