PARIS (Jul. 6)
Official French sources were unable or unprepared to say over the weekend what stand President Georges Pompidou or his Government would take on the embargo on military equipment and spare parts to Israel imposed by former President Charles de Gaulle. No official comment was available on an Israeli Defense Forces radio station report last Thursday that President Pompidou was about to release more than $50 million worth of 50 Mirage I jet fighter-bombers bought and paid for by Israel but impounded in France for more than two years.
The military commentator in Tel Aviv said the jets would be released in October or November and that the delivery of aircraft spare parts to Israel had been already resumed. He said that once the Mirages had been delivered, France would re-impose the boycott and that there would be no further deliveries of French arms to Israel in the foreseeable future. The commentator described the plan as a compromise to appease pro-Israel elements in France while satisfying orthodox Gaullists who demand that the Pompidou regime continue the embargo.
(The London Times reported from Paris that official quarters described the Tel Aviv report as totally without foundation and as a clumsy attempt by Israeli military circles to exploit the situation arising from the change of Government in France.)
Former President de Gaulle imposed the jets embargo shortly after the June, 1967 Six-Day War. He broadened it to include all military equipment and spare parts after Israel’s Dec. 29, 1968 raid on Beirut Airport in retaliation for a terrorist attack on an El Al airliner at Athens several days earlier.
The Pompidou Government meanwhile is under increasing pressure from both pro-Israeli and pro-Arab circles, the former urging an end to the embargo and the latter demanding that it be maintained. The pro-Israeli elements argue that recent events along the Suez Canal make it imperative for Israel to maintain a strong Air Force. They say that the Egyptians may try to establish a beachhead on the canal’s east bank and that prompt delivery of the 50 Mirages would forestall such a move which could lead to renewed all out warfare in the Middle East.
Israel’s Ambassador to France, Walter Eytan, will meet next Thursday with Foreign Minister Maurice Schumann. Their meeting will be the first high level Franco-Israeli diplomatic contact since the Six-Day War and Israeli circles hope it will help clarify the picture on the embargo. Arab diplomats are also active and are supported by several French corporations that hope to develop profitable business relations with the Arab states.