Jewish lawmaker becomes first female speaker of French National Assembly

France’s lower house of parliament on Tuesday chose Yael Braun-Privet, a Jewish lawmaker, to serve as its speaker.

Braun-Privet, whose Jewish grandparents fled Germany to France in the 1930s, is the first woman to hold the post of National Assembly speaker. She is a member of President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist Ensemble coalition, despite the ruling alliance losing its majority in recent legislative elections.

Braun-Privet, 51, joined the Assembly’s France-Israel friendship group when she was first elected in 2017, and has visited Israel several times.

The lawmaker, a mother of five,  served as the president of the National Assembly Law commission, and served briefly as Minister of the Overseas Territories.

Last year, Braun-Privet shared antisemitic hate mail she received. In addition to referencing death camps, the author wrote, “This time, it’s the Muslims who will deal with you.”

“Jews can no longer come into some neighborhoods,” the letter continued. “Within two generations it will be whole cities. Demography determines laws.”

France’s President Emmanuel Macron (front right), grabs the arm of US President Joe Biden (front left) as they attend a family photo opportunity at Castle Elmau in Kruen, near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, June 26, 2022. (Jonathan Ernst/Pool Photo via AP)

A criminal lawyer by trade who attended Jewish school in Strasbourg in her youth, Braun-Privet put her career on hold for several years to move with her husband, an executive at L’Oreal, to Taiwan and Japan.

She is now the fourth most senior official in France after the president, prime minister, and Senate speaker.

In her inaugural speech, Braun-Privet addressed the US Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.

Calling the decision “brutal,” she said that “nothing should be taken for granted. History is made up of great progress, but that is always under the threat of being reversed.”

She called on parliament to be “the watchdog” so that a right to abortion in France remains in place forever.

Braun-Privet pledged to be the guarantor that the lower house will be “the foundation on which we can build consensus, compromises.” She portrayed herself as qualified for this role because of her ability to listen and cooperate with other parties.

Women “must succeed in politics without imitating or adapting to a male model,” she emphasized in her speech.

“At a time when our country is plagued by communitarianism, separatism and nationalism, and when the far right and the far left are constantly playing on fears to divide and fracture France,” said Arie Bensemhoun, CEO of ELNET  France, an organization that seeks to build ties between Israel and France, “the election of Yaël Braun-Pivet is a source of hope that the values of the Republic and democracy will be defended within Parliament.”

“This is undoubtedly a chance and an opportunity that must be seized in order to meet the many challenges facing France and to reduce the extremes,” Bensemhoun continued.

France’s June 19 legislative election saw surges for the far right and hard left and opposition forces have said they will not be lured into a lasting arrangement to support Macron’s government, which is 37 seats short of an overall majority.

Despite the loss of the majority, Macron’s ruling alliance still managed to push through her appointment in the second round of voting.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, appointed last month, is France’s second female prime minister after the brief stint by Edith Cresson in the 1990s.

AFP contributed to this report.

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