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See Poher’s Decision to Seek Presidency Focusing Attention on Franco-israeli Relations

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The decision of Acting President Alain Poher to seek election to a seven-year Presidential term will make the question of Franco-Israeli relations one of the focal issues of the campaign. Political observers here largely agreed today the M. Poher’s candidacy, in the light of his known desire for a “normalization of Franco-Israeli ties.” will force former Premier Georges Pompidou, leading contestant, who is running with Gaullist support, to take a public position on Israel.

There is a strong belief here that former President de Gaulle’s anti-Israel attitude, and especially his decision to impose an embargo on all military equipment and spare parts for Israel, greatly contributed to his downfall in a referendum last month which the General insisted on making a personal vote of confidence. Although there are less than 500,000 Jews in France and probably not more than 250,000 voters among them, some political analysts argue that Gen. de Gaulle’s pro-Arab Middle East policies may have cost him anything up to a million votes. Many Frenchmen bitterly opposed Gen. de Gaulle’s single-handed action in imposing the embargo and considered it a betrayal.

M. Pompidou was said today to be well aware of this situation. He has tried in the last few days to suggest that if elected he would seek to improve Franco-Israeli relations but his statements have been couched in vague terms. With M. Poher’s entry in the field and the public opinion polls indicating that M. Poher would win the election runoffs, it would appear certain that M. Pompidou would now have to take a more definite stand on Gen. de Gaulle’s Middle East policies and especially on the embargo issue,

All the candidates in the Presidential race will shortly have to put themselves on public record with regard to the Middle East and Israel, political observers said. The France-Israel Alliance, the head of which is Gen. Pierre Koenig, wartime hero and Centrist leader, is addressing a questionnaire to all candidates asking them to declare their stand on a number of questions involved in French Mideast policy, including the embargo.

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