See French Resumption of European-oriented Role As Leading to Better Israeli Ties

Prospects that France will resume a European-oriented role under new President Georges Pompidou point to some likelihood that relations also will improve with Israel, diplomatic sources said here this weekend. This expectation was voiced in connection with a speech of the new French Premier, Jacques Chaban-Delmas, who said France will be true to her alliances, particularly her ties with NATO.

The sources said that this may not imply plans for an immediate lifting of the French arms embargo against Israel but that it did suggest that France may take a fresh look at its Middle East policy, which is presumed to be connected with France’s relations with the Soviet Union. Although there is a pro-Arab school in the French Government independent of global developments, the pronounced anti-Israel stand under President Charles de Gaulle was viewed here as part of France’s efforts to befriend the Soviet Union and to play it off against the United States. If that effort is ended, Franco-Israeli ties can be expected to improve on the premise that Israel is regarded by Paris as representing U.S. interests in the Middle East, the informants said.

(M. Chaban-Delmas said in Paris that a special committee on foreign affairs of the French Cabinet would meet in “the near future” to reconsider the arms embargo against Israel. Replying on radio to listeners’ questions, M. Chaban-Delmas hinted that the embargo might be lifted if other countries continued to deliver arms to the Middle East. He said this was in line with the declarations of M. Pompidou during the election campaign which “still stand.” M. Pompidou had called for a general arms embargo on the Middle East with the exception of Lebanon which he did not consider a belligerent in the 1967 war.

(According to M. Chaban-Delmas, President Pompidou regarded the embargo imposed by his predecessor as an “example” to other nations not to arm the Mideast rather than a punitive measure. The newspaper Le Monde commented that this concept of the embargo was a departure from Gen. de Gaulle’s views. The paper noted that the former President announced his embargo on 50 Mirage V jet fighter-bombers, bought and paid for by Israel, after the 1967 war. He broadened it to include all military equipment and spare parts last January after Israel’s retaliatory raid on Beirut Airport following a terrorist attack on an El Al airliner in Athens.

(New York Times correspondent Henry Tanner reported from Paris yesterday that, according to “reliable reports,” deliveries of some spare parts to Israel have already been resumed. According to the correspondent, “informed French sources said that President Pompidou, having promised continuity as well as flexibility…is looking for a gradual and unobtrusive approach that would not look like a break with past policies, The sources,” Mr. Tanner went on, “indicated that the release of the first planes to Israel might be made to coincide with deliveries of French arms either to Iraq or to Lebanon or with some other friendly gesture toward the Arabs. The sources stressed that some time would have to elapse before this happened.”)

NEXT STORY