PARIS (Jan. 13)
President Charles de Gaulle’s decision to impose a “total embargo” on arms shipments and military spare parts to Israel appears to be having more serious repercussions in France than the 79-year-old French leader could have foreseen. Widespread unrest and discontent in the ranks of the French Army over the embargo were reported from several reliable sources today. French industrialists were reported to be furious over the loss of lucrative Israeli orders for military equipment and spare parts. Economists were fearful that a further deterioration of France’s balance of payments as a result of the embargo could lead to a new economic crisis.
Unrest in the French Army reportedly reached such proportions that special measures were taken by military authorities. The well-informed weekly, Nouvelle Observateur, reported today that many senior Army officers have publicly and privately expressed dissatisfaction with Gen. de Gaulle. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency learned that a number of them approached Defense Minister Pierre Messmer to let him know their “shame that France has once again forsaken her pledges.” The JTA also learned that President de Gaulle included the French “Army and administration” along with the press and radio in his assertion at last week’s Cabinet meeting that French institutions were under’ “Israeli influence.” It was only at the urging of Prime Minister Maurice Couve de Murville and M. Messmer that references to the Army were deleted from the communique later released by Information Minister Joel Le Theule.
The weekly L’Express reported today that France has lost $500 million worth of orders from Israel during the past year owing to the earlier embargo on 50 Mirage V jets bought and paid for by Israel. The paper said Israel had planned to place orders for additional Mirages. The report coincided with a release from the Government bureau of statistics that showed further deterioration of France’s balance of trade during December, 1968. France’s exports were only 81 percent of her imports compared to 95 percent in October, 1968.
(Two London newspapers noted today that Israel could obtain spare parts for its French-built Mirage jets from Belgium, thus circumventing the de Gaulle embargo. The Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph reported that Marcel Dassault, whose firm manufactures the Mirage, had bought a 50 percent interest in a Belgian aircraft company which could be the source of needed parts. A Belgian Foreign Ministry spokesman said in Brussels yesterday that there had been no approaches from Israel so far. However, the Daily Mail reported that the Belgian factory could start producing Mirage spare parts almost immediately. The paper said that Dassault stands to lose some $600 million as a result of the embargo and moved into Belgium last year as a form of “insurance.”)