PARIS (May. 18)
The key contenders for the Presidency of France–interim President Alain Poher and former Premier Georges Pompidou–have made campaign pledges to change the anti-Israel, pro-Arab policy laid down by former President Charles de Gaulle but both shied away from the issue of lifting the de Gaulle embargo on weapons and spare parts to Israel.
M. Poher said in his first campaign speech last night on the State-operated national television that he would change France’s Mideast policy. However, he said that the embargo against Israel should have covered all belligerents in the region. He said France must avoid any action in the Mideast that would make French decisions toward any country “appear at anytime as being unjust or unjustified, taking into account past arrangements or even commercial obligations.” One of these commercial obligations, as Israel sees it, is the agreement for sale of 50 Mirage jets paid for by Israel and embargoed by Gen. de Gaulle.
Former Premier Pompidou pledged in a radio interview that if he was elected next month, he would sponsor foreign policy changes but he refused to spell out his ideas for such changes. He also refused to say whether he would lift the arms embargo against Israel. He adhered to generalities in replies to questions and refused to allow himself to be pinned down to any specifics. He said it was “wrong for any Frenchmen and especially for myself to criticize my country’s foreign policy.” He also said he felt it would be “politically wrong” to “reveal the color of my cards now.”
M. Pompidou said there were two major problems requiring solutions to bring about peace. He said Israel’s right to exist like “all other countries” must be assured within recognized boundaries and that a solution to the Arab refugee problem must be found. But, in contrast to policy stands during Gen. de Gaulle’s regime, M. Pompidou did not mention the “necessity” for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories. He insisted that neither Israel nor the Arab states alone could solve the refugee problem, a goal which he said could be sought only in conjunction with the major powers. He said “this is one of the reasons I strongly support” the Big Four talks “and think that some good” could come from them. He also suggested that the Big Four should agree on a general and total arms embargo on all Mideast “belligerents.”
Two other candidates–Socialist Gaston Defferre and extreme leftist Alain Krivine–also discussed their Mideast positions. M. Defferre and the man he intends to name as Premier if he wins the Presidency–Pierre Mendes-France–announced they opposed the de Gaulle embargo on Israel. They added that the best solution was not to lift the embargo but to extend it to all “belligerents” in the region. Some observers said that M. Mendes-France, a Jew, suggested that formula to avoid charges of pro-Israel partiality. Observers noted that all public opinion polls indicated that the Defferre-Mendes-France combination has no chance of winning.
M. Krivine, a Jew who heads the tiny League of Communists, declared he and his group “stand squarely behind the Arab resistance movement fighting Israel and Zionist imperialism.” He said this stand had been taken despite the fact that most of his followers are also Jews because “we cannot compromise with basic ideological principles.”
(In Jerusalem, it was announced that Gen. Zvi Tzur, Assistant Minister of Defense, will head a three-man delegation to the Paris Air Show, sponsored by the French Ministry of Defense, to demonstrate French aeronautical advances. Gen. Mordechai Hod, commander of the Israel Air Force, who was also invited to attend the show, will not attend.)