PARIS (Jan. 15)
The Foreign Affairs Committee of the French Senate voted over whelmingly today to reject the Government’s explanation of the embargo on military equipment and spare parts to Israel and demanded that Prime Minister Maurice Couve de Murville rescind it at once. The vote was 19-four, with six abstentions. Only Gaullists and Communists voted in opposition. The vote was taken after a three-hour questioning of Foreign Minister Michel Debre who tried to justify Gen. de Gaulle’s embargo decision.
The French Government’s embargo on military equipment and spare parts to Israel and its increasingly anti-Israel, pro-Arab stand appeared today to be flying in the face of French public opinion. A poll published by “Sud Ouest,” a leading provincial newspaper, showed that 97.3 percent of Frenchmen opposed the embargo. The poll was the latest manifestation of widespread opposition to President de Gaulle’s move which has been overwhelming in the press, in non-Gaullist political circles, among French industrialists and in the Army itself. Gen. de Gaulle, who failed to consult with his own Cabinet before announcing the embargo, had apparently discounted this. His Government moved yesterday to align itself more firmly with the Arab camp in the wake of Israel’s Dec. 28 reprisal raid on Beirut Airport.
FRENCH FOREIGN OFFICE SAYS FRANCE PREPARED TO ACT IF LEBANON IS THREATENED
The French Foreign Office said in an official statement last night that “should Lebanon be threatened, France, in the name of the friendship which binds us to Lebanon, will not remain indifferent.” Unofficially, Government circles intimated that France was “prepared to act with all the means at its disposal” should Lebanon be threatened. It was hinted in some quarters that France, at “very short notice” could fly a combat-ready force to the Middle East “to protect Lebanon.” A company of French paratroopers of the 11th Light Intervention Division was reported today to be stationed at Toulouse military airport ready for such a contingency. French circles also said it was “highly likely” that a major French naval unit might pay a courtesy call to Beirut.
These broad hints of possible French military intervention if Israel attacked Lebanon seemed to bear out a report to that effect yesterday in the Beirut newspaper, Al Anwar. The paper claimed that the former French Information Minister, Georges Gorse, currently visiting Lebanon on a ceremonial mission, assured President Charles Helou and other Lebanese leaders that “they can count to the utmost on Gen. de Gaulle’s support.”
But the hints of possible French intervention, dropped by various Government officials, were viewed by many observers here as intended to serve only as “advance warning” to Israel not to strike another blow against Lebanon. They said the French gesture was a “purely prestige operation” because Gen. de Gaulle is well aware that Israel has no intention of occupying any territory of Lebanon. The warning however serves a diplomatic purpose in that France can later claim that she was responsible for deterring a new Israeli attack, they said.
THOUSANDS IN PARIS HEAR ANTI-ISRAEL EMBARGO DENOUNCED AS ‘A STAB IN THE BACK’
A crowd estimated in the thousands, as many non-Jews as Jews apparently among them, jammed Paris’ largest meeting hall, the “Salle de la Mutualite.” Tuesday night, to denounce President de Gaulle’s embargo on military equipment and spare parts to Israel and demand that it be lifted. The mass rally was organized by Gen. Pierre Koenig, World War II French resistance leader, in his capacity as president of the Franco-Israel Alliance. The hall was decorated with huge French and Israelis flags and enlarged posters containing Gen. de Gaulle’s toast of only a few years ago: “To Israel, Our Friend and Our Ally.”
The audience was addressed by leaders of non-Gaullist political parties, among them Michel Poniatovsky, leader of the junior coalition party, the Independent Republicans; Jean Lacannuet, a former Presidential candidate, and the Socialist Senator, Pierre Giraud. M. Lacannuet, who had come from Rouen expressly for the meeting, declared that de Gaulle’s embargo decision “has made all of us lose some more of our illusions about the French President.” He charged that Gen. de Gaulle “seems to have different scales to judge different cases. He has forgiven and forgotten Russia’s invasion of Czechoslovakia but has proclaimed Israel’s raid on Beirut Airport a major crime.” Sen. Giraud called the embargo not a warning to Israel “but a stab in the back.”